The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) is the oldest active infantry unit in the Army. Founded in 1784, it even predates the Constitution of the United States. Since 1948, The Old Guard has been stationed in the Washington, D.C., area at Joint Base Myer- Henderson Hall at Fort Myer, Virginia.
As a Military District of Washington unit, the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment is charged with the unique mission of serving as the U.S. Army’s official escort to the president of the United States and our nation’s premier Memorial Affairs and Ceremonial unit, as well as performing tactical infantry missions whenever and wherever necessary and providing security for the nation’s capital.
The unit received its name from Gen. Winfield Scott at the victory parade in Mexico City in 1848 following several hard-fought victories during the Mexican War. As the 3d Infantry approached the reviewing stand, Scott removed his hat and said of the unit that had so distinguished itself in that campaign, “Gentlemen, take off your hats to The Old
Guard of the Army.”
Since World War II, The Old Guard has served as the official Army Honor Guard and escort to the president of the United States. In that capacity, Old Guard Soldiers are responsible for conducting military ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon, national memorials and elsewhere in the nation’s capital. In addition, Soldiers of The Old Guard maintain a 24-hour vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, provide military funeral escorts at Arlington National Cemetery and participate in parades and ceremonies nationwide.
The black and tan “buff strap” worn on the left shoulder by each member of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment is a replica of the knapsack strap used by the 19th-century predecessors of the unit to display its distinctive colors and distinguish its members from other Army units. The present buff strap continues to signify an Old Guard Soldier’s pride in personal appearance and precision performance that has marked the unit for more than 200 years.
A further distinction of The Old Guard is the custom of passing in review with fixed bayonets at all parades and ceremonies. This practice, sanctioned by the War Department in 1922, also dates to the Mexican War in 1847, when The Old Guard led a successful bayonet charge against the enemy at Cerro Gordo. Today, this distinction is reserved for The Old Guard alone.
The Old Guard maintains a constant readinessfor its security role and the deployment of its Soldiers by conducting a year-round tactical training program culminating with intensive training at various combat training centers. Since 2004, The Old Guard has deployed three companies in support of overseas contingency operations in the Middle East. Recently, a company of The Old Guard returned from a deployment to Camp Taji, Iraq.