28 February 2011

The Quest for the Crests, Part 2

It turns out that the item to which soldiers most commonly refer as a "battalion crest" is technically not a "crest," and isn't necessarily specific to a battalion. Instead, the official term for a unit-specific badge is "distinctive unit insignia" (D.U.I.). Companies, battalions, regiments, brigades, and divisions can all have them.

In the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT), soldiers assigned to the headquarters and headquarters companies wear the division insignia (at right), as discussed in part 1 of this series of posts.

In the warfighting "maneuver" units of the 2-34th BCT--infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons--the distinctive unit insignia are "regimental" emblems. These are symbols of a rarely seen, almost vestigial echelon of organization in the U.S. army.

In today's Army, the technical definition of "regiment" is a unit larger than a battalion, but smaller than a brigade. Unlike a brigade, it comprises only units of similar type. By contrast, today's "Brigade Combat Teams" (B.C.T.) contain every type of unit necessary to conduct tactical operations: infantry and intelligence, medical and logistics, artillery and transportation.

In conversation and newsprint, the term "regiment" often gets swallowed, forgotten, or dropped. Hearing a contemporary Iowa soldier refer to his battalion as the "133rd Infantry," for example, isn't quite correct, given that there could still exist multiple battalions stemming from the same regimental lineage. A soldier assigned to the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1/133rd Inf.) would wear the same regimental insignia as a soldier of the currently dormant 2nd Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (2/133rd Inf.).

For a review of the units currently comprising the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT), click here.

Generally, a distinctive unit emblem often incorporates the unit coat-of-arms with an official motto. Here are those of the infantry and cavalry units currently assigned to 2-34th BCT:

1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment

Motto: “Avauncez” (French for "advance" or "forward")

Symbolism: The shield is silver, or white, the old Infantry branch color. The Spanish castle, taken from the Spanish campaign medal, is used to represent the military service outside the continental limits of the United States, while the cactus and fleur-de-lis are for Mexican Border and World War service, respectively.


1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment

Motto: "On Guard"

Symbolism: The shield is white, the old Infantry branch color. The bend in the form of a rainbow shows the service of the 168th Infantry in World War I in the 42nd Division.

The cactus represents the Mexican Border duty and palm tree the Philippine service.


1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment

Motto: "We maintain"

Symbolism: Yellow is the color traditionally associated with Cavalry. The "red horse," symbolizing the popular name of the regiment, is in a rampant position to denote aggressiveness and is bridled to indicate discipline. The prickly pear cactus represents service on the Mexican Border and the fleur-de-lis signifies service in France during World War I of the original 113th Cavalry.


1st Squadron, 134th Cavalry Regiment (Nebraska National Guard)

Motto: "La We, La His" (Pawnee for "The strong, the brave")

Symbolism: The Katipunan sun represents the Phillipine Insurrection and the palm tree the Spanish-American War service. The olla, charged with the bull skull, denotes the World War I service of the organization in the 34th Division.

The snake symbolizes the Mexican border service.


  1. We liked to change our unit mottos:
    "Second to None" - "Wait a second..."
    "Always Forward" - "Always something"

  2. @ CI-Roller Dude: Too funny! There are a couple of mottos that lend themselves to such treatment in Part III. I'll try to work that in. Stay tuned!

  3. To add to your great coverage, "/" is used when battalions are organized as a regiment with the regiment as a level of command (such as in WWII) & "-" is used when it's affiliated with a regiment such as in today BCT. The formal branch abbreviations are now two letters So soldier would be from 1-133 IN.

    More pedantry: regiment isn't part of the official name per AR 220-5. It's just 1st Battalion, 133d Infantry, etc. Don't forget to abbreviate third as 3d, not 3rd...

  4. Formal abbreviations for infantry branch, that is.

  5. @ Anonymous: Thanks for the good info! You'll note that I actually tend to use a somewhat custom stylebook, particularly when it comes to units. I avoid the modern two-character branch abbreviations, because they don't seem to translate well to civilian audiences. Same with the one-character ordinals.

    I'm doing more research into the Army Regulation you cite, as well as others. In the meantime, thanks for the tips--and for reading Red Bull Rising!


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