IntroductionEditA regiment is a military unit, composed of variable numbers of battalions, commanded by a Colonel or, as in the case of the modern British Army where colonels more often serve as staff officers rather than field commanders, a Lieutenant Colonel. A regiment can be broken into two distinct categories, one being an administrative unit which is responsible for non-operational management of battalions (such as human resources, training and strategic reserve), while the other being a deployable combat arm varying from a battalion to a brigade sized formation, usually with organic supply and support. Depending on the nation, military branch, mission, and organization, a modern combat regiment resembles a brigade, in that both range in size from a few hundred to 5,000 soldiers (3 to 7 standard battalions). Generally, regiments and brigades are grouped as divisions. The modern regiment's size varies in number, scope and administrative role from country to country (and might not exist in some military forces) and sometimes even within the military of the same nations.
The French term régiment entered military usage in Europe at the end of the 16th century, when armies evolved from collections of retinues who followed knights, to formally organised, permanent military forces. At that time, regiments usually were named after their commanding colonels, and disbanded at the end of the campaign or war; the colonel and his regiment might recruit from and serve several masters (countries). Later, it was customary to name the regiment by its geographic precedence in the line of battle, and to recruit from specific places, the cantons. The oldest regiment which still exists is the 1521 Swedish Life Guards, although the French claim that their 1st Infantry Regiment was created in 1479 from the ancient "Bandes de Picardies", and is the oldest regiment.
In the 17th century brigades were formed as units combining infantry, cavalry, and artillery that were more effective than the older, single-arms regiments; in many armies, brigades replaced regiments
The regimental army organisation system often is contrasted to the "continental system" (adopted by European armies). In the continental system, the division is the functional army unit, and its commander the administrator of every aspect of the formation: his staff train and administer the soldiers, officers, and commanders of the division's subordinate units. Generally, divisions are garrisoned together and share the same installations: thus, in divisional administration, a battalion commanding officer is just another officer in a chain of command. Soldiers and officers are transferred in and out of divisions as required.
In the regimental system, each regiment is responsible for recruiting, training, and administration; each regiment is permanently maintained and therefore the regiment will develop its unique esprit de corps because of its unitary history, traditions, recruitment, and function. Usually, the regiment is responsible for recruiting and administrating a soldier's military career. Depending upon the country, regiments can be either combat units or administrative units or both.
Some regiments recruited from specific geographical areas, and usually incorporated the place name into the regimental name. In other cases, regiments would recruit from a given age group within a nation (e.g. Zulu Impis), an ethnic group (e.g. the Gurkhas), or foreigners (e.g. the French Foreign Legion). In other cases, new regiments were raised for new functions within an army; e.g. the Fusiliers, the Parachute Regiment (British Army), and the U.S. Army 75th Ranger Regiment.
Disadvantages of the regimental system are hazardous regimental competition, a lack of interchangeability between units of different regiments, and more pronounced "old boy networks" within the military that may hamper efficiency and fairness.
A key aspect of the regimental system is that the regiment or battalion is the fundamental tactical building block. This flows historically from the colonial period, when battalions were widely dispersed and virtually autonomous, but is easily adapted to a number of different purposes. For example, a regiment might include different types of battalions (e.g. infantry or artillery) of different origins (e.g. regular or reserve).
Within the regimental system, soldiers, and usually officers, are always posted to a tactical unit of their own regiment whenever posted to field duty. In addition to combat units, other organizations are very much part of the regimental family: regimental training schools, serving members on "extra-regimental employment", regimental associations (retirees), bands and associated cadet groups. The aspects that an administrative regiment might have in common include a symbolic colonel-in-chief (often a member of the royal family), a colonel of the regiment or "honorary colonel" who protects the traditions and interests of the regimental family and insists on the maintenance of high standards, battle honours (honours earned by one unit of an administrative regiment are credited to the regiment), ceremonial uniforms, cap badges, peculiarities of insignia, stable belts, and regimental marches and songs. The regiment usually has a traditional "home station", which is often a historic garrison that houses the regimental museum and regimental headquarters. The latter has a modest staff to support regimental committees and administer both the regular members and the association(s) of retired members.
Advantages and disadvantagesEdit
The regimental system is generally admired for the esprit de corps it engenders in its units' members, but efforts to implement it in countries with a previously-existing continental system usually do not succeed. The system presents difficulties for military planners, who must deal with the problems of trying to keep soldiers of a regiment together throughout their careers and of administering separate garrisons, training, and mess facilities. The regimental community of serving and retired members often makes it very difficult for planners to restructure forces by moving, merging or re-purposing units.
In those armies where the continental system exists, the regimental system is criticized as parochial and as creating unnecessary rivalry between different regiments. The question is also raised as to whether it is healthy to develop soldiers more loyal to their regiment than to the military in general. In favor of the regimental system, it is worth noting that the United Kingdom has never suffered a military coup, or even seriously faced the prospect of one – this could be attributed to the "tribal" nature of the regimental system, which makes it nearly impossible for a charismatic leader to command the loyalty of the entire army. (The English Civil War took place before the political creation of the United Kingdom.) Commonwealth-style regiments have proven their worth throughout history in war and through lengthy and difficult policing missions. Regiments recruited from areas of political ferment (such as Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Quebec, India, etc.), tend to perform particularly well because of the loyalty their members exhibit to the regiments. Generally, the regimental system is found to function best in countries with small-to medium-sized military forces where the problems of administering vast numbers of personnel are not as prevalent. The regimental system works particularly well in an environment in which the prime role of the army consists of small-scale police actions and counterinsurgency operations, requiring prolonged deployment away from home. In such a situation, co-ordination between regiments is rarely necessary, and the esprit de corps of the regiment provides an emotional substitute for the sense of public approval that an army receives at home. This is particularly relevant to British experience during the days of the empire, where the army was virtually continuously engaged in low-intensity conflict with insurgents, and full-scale warfare was the exception rather than the rule.
A regimental system can also foster close links between the regiment and the community from which it is recruited. This sense of community 'ownership' over local regiments can be seen in the public outcry over recent regimental amalgamations in the United Kingdom.
Further, the regimental system offers the advantage of grouping like units together for centralized administrative, training, and logistical purposes, thereby creating an “economies of scale” effect and its ensuing increased efficiency.
An illustrative example of this is the modular integration employed by the United States Marine Corps, which can take elements from its regimentally grouped forces and specifically tailor combined arms task forces for a particular mission or the deployed Marine Expeditionary Units. This is achievable partially because of the Marines mission adaptability, flexibility, philosophy, shared culture, history, and overall esprit de corps, which allows for near seamless interoperability.
In the British Army and armies modelled on it (such as the Australian, the Canadian, the Indian and the Pakistani), the term regiment is used confusingly in two different ways: it can mean an administrative identity and grouping or a tactical unit. The modern British regimental system came about as a result of the 19th century Cardwell Reforms.
In other Commonwealth countries such as India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada the large administrative regiment has been the normal practice for many years. In the case of India "large regiments" of four to five battalions date from 1923 and since the 1950s many of these have expanded even further. As an example the Punjab Regiment has expanded from four battalions in 1956 to its present strength of 20, while in Pakistan several regiments have over 50 battalions.
In Canada, the regiment is a formation of one or more like units employed almost exclusively for reasons of heritage, the continuance of battle honors and espit de corps. Most Canadian infantry regiments are reserve units composed entirely of one under-strength battalion of between 100-250 soldiers. The three regular force infantry regiments each consist of three regular force battalions of approximately 600 soldiers, in addition to one or more reserve battalions. Canadian battalions are employed tactically and administratively within Canadian Mechanized Brigade Groups for regular units, or light Canadian Brigade Groups for reserve units.
In Australia there is but one administrative infantry regiment in the regular army, the Royal Australian Regiment, consisting of all eight regular infantry battalions in the Army, including mechanised, motorised, light, commando and parachute infantry. The Australian Army Reserve also has state-based infantry regiments which administer the reserve infantry battalions.
In Pakistan the word regiment is an administrative grouping. While different battalions may have different roles (for example different battalions of the Frontier Force Regiment may be mechanized infantry, para infantry or mountain troops) the regiment is considered to encompass all of them.