United esprit de corps and unit cohesion are essential characteristics of an effective fighting organization. Military history has demonstrated that units with high esprit, a sense of tradition and pride in past achievements perform well in combat. The goal of the U.S. Army Regimental System (USARS) is to provide soldiers with a personnel system that foster unit readiness and combat effectiveness by developing in soldiers a sense of loyalty and commitment which comes from long-term identification with a unit. The USARS provides not only the opportunity for soldiers to develop a long-term identification with a regiment but the potential for recurring assignments and the opportunity to highlight the history, customs and traditions behind the regiments.
The USARS provides for the position of honorary colonel, warrant officer, sergeant major and distinguished members of the regiment or corps. The mission of those who hold these honorary positions is to perpetuate th4e history and traditions of the regiment or corps, thereby enhancing unit moral and spirit. The wearing of regimental or corps accouterments further enhances unit moral and esprit. Examples of these accouterments include the regimental or corps distinctive unit insignia (crest) and the regimental collar insignia.
The USARS provides for the mandatory affiliation of all soldiers with the regiment or corps of their choice. All combat soldiers must affiliate with a regiment of their choice. Soldiers can select any regiment or corps of their branch or career management field with some military occupational skill and/or specialty skill identifier restrictions. For example, only qualified parachutists can affiliate with the 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. While the USARS allows these soldiers the opportunity to identify with a combat arms regiment, combat support, combat service support corps, or special branch throughout their career, soldiers can change their affiliation at any time. There is no limit to the number of soldiers who can sign up for a specific regiment. By serving in a regiment, soldiers can enhance their professional development.
The regiment as a clearly defined military unit emerged in the late Middle Ages. During this period the regiment came to be a basic building block of many state’s military machines, very much as the legion had performed the same function for Imperial Rome. The word "regiment" is derived from the Latin word regimen, meaning a rule or a system of order. In most armies it denoted a body of troops headed by a colonel and organized into companies, battalions or squadrons. French cavalry units were designated with the title as early as 1558. During the European conflict known as the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), the regiment came into its own as the basic organizational unit in European armies and remained so for the next 250 years.
While the battalion became the basic tactical unit in most armies, its parent unit, the regiment became the principal instrument of garrison administration: recruiting, training and centralizing wartime command. As armies became permanent royal (later national) organizations and professional in character, regiments (especially those with an illustrious history of achievements in combat) increasingly became objects of institutional loyalty, pride and esprit, particularly among their leaders. Both state and arm consciously promoted cohesiveness by endowing each regiment with a distinctive name, number, colors, uniform and insignia.
American colonial and early national military establishments both employed regiments as basic organizational elements. In the civil War, regiments of both sides ere recruited regionally, enormously enhancing unit cohesion. Such temporary regiments usually combined with other regiments when losses compromised their combat effectiveness.
During World War II, some soldiers served with the same unit for the duration, but most did not. Only the infantry and two armored units were organized in regiments throughout the war. Many of the soldiers who came ashore in North Africa in 1942 stilled served under the same regimental colors on the Elbe River in 1945.
From the organization of the North, South and East Regiment in 1636 until 1959, the regiment was the primary tactical unit in the National Guard. The regiment was not only the repository for history and tradition, it also served as the basic personnel organization. Before 1959 a National Guardsman could spend an entire military career in a particular regiment. In 1959 Army National Guard regiments were replaced by battle groups, which were later replaced by battalions.
The Vietnam War especially underscored the need for better unit cohesion. The Army was plagued by high desertion rates, rampant drug use, refusals to fight and an alarming incidence of attempted assassination of officers by their own men.
In 1978, the commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command asked British Lieutenant P.W. Faith and Canadian Lieutenant Colonel D.I. Ross to study how the British and Canadian regimental system might be applied in the American Army. Their study, completed in 1980, was the first step toward creation of the new manning system initiated in 1985 and embodied in Army Regulation 600-82, The U.S. Army Regimental System.
Early in 1981 the Army implemented The New Manning System. This system contained two parts: the COHORT (cohesion, operational readiness and training) Unit Movement System and the US Army Regimental System (USARS). Initially the regimental system was limited to the Combat Arms (Infantry, Field Artillery, Air Defense, Armor, Aviation & Cavalry). The intent of USARS was to establish a greater unit bond among soldiers by affiliating them with a regiment throughout their careers. This was done to foster a sense of belonging and unit identity. In addition, the distinguished histories and traditions of these regiments would be maintained.In the mid-1980s the Combat Support (CS) and Combat Services Support (CSS) branches were incorporated into the regimental system. Unlike the Combat Arms, which each had several regiments, CS & CSS branches retained their "Corps" title. The entire branch was integrated into a regiment under the "whole branch" concept.