In the case of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, Military District of Washington, the unit’s nickname of “Old Guard” is truer than you might imagine. Organized in 1784 as the First American Regiment, this is the oldest active-duty regiment in the U.S. Army. Beginning with the War of 1812, the regiment has received official credit for scores of campaigns spanning nine conflicts. Although the unit at one time was first and foremost an active combat regiment, its duties are now almost entirely ceremonial in nature (although it was deployed in Vietnam and during Operation Iraqi Freedom because part of its mission includes deployment for overseas contingency operations). It is also been given the assignment of conducting the defense of civil authorities in the National Capital Region. Most of its military glory can be traced to its performances during the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.

The regiment’s overarching mission is to participate in memorial events that honor fallen soldiers, as well as take part in ceremonies and special events in which they represent the U.S. Army in a way that communicates its principles and celebrates its history. In addition to marching platoons that we see at many ceremonies, the 3rd Infantry Regiment also contains special elements tasked with unique duties. Some of these are:

  • Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknowns maintain an unbroken watch twenty-four hour watch over one of the military’s most sacred sites.
  • The Continental Color Guard presents the nation's colors at special events throughout the Capitol and surrounding areas.
  • The Presidential Salute Battery renders honors during wreath ceremonies, reviews, full-honors funerals, and at the arrival of senior dignitaries.
  • The U.S. Army Caisson Platoon provides horses and riders for casket-bearing caissons in military and state funerals, as well as riderless horses employed in full-honors funerals. upports the  Therapeutic Riding Program for wounded warriors.

The duty to protect the National Capital Region is symbolized in the 3rd Infantry Regiment's CSIB, or Combat Service Identification Badge. A drawn sword in front of the Washington Monument reflect's the regiment's willingness to carry out the defense of the nation as represented by a monument to a President who was in office during the existence of this venerated unit. This same sense of duty to protect is reflected in the motto NOLI ME TANGERE, Latin for "Touch me not"—or, in an alternate translation preferred by some historians, "Don't tread on me." The 3rd Regiment's Unit Crest, or Distinctive Unit Insignia, is even more simple in its design than this CSIB, but carries much solemnity and tradition.

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