Regional Forces / Popular Forces
Village Militia, South Vietnamese Army
720th Military Police Battalion Reunion Association Vietnam History Project
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This Page Last Updated 28 January 2011

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        If you would like to contribute any information, documents, personal stories or photographs pertaining to the RF/PFs that you worked with, please notify the History Project Manager via the above Email Link.

        Regional Forces/Popular Forces, or "Rough Puffs" and "PF's" (RF/PF), as they were often called, fought a major share of the War in Vietnam at the rice-roots level. Comprising about 50 percent of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces, they operated in all the provinces by the end of the war. During the height of the war more than 3,000 PF (Popular Forces) platoons defended villages and hamlets, guarded key installations and provided security for officials.

Better than 800 Regional Force companies performed the same type of duty at the district level. They were the equivalent of our National Guard. The overall effectiveness of these soldiers was solidly established. And the bravery of many RF/PF units became legendary.

Regional Forces
Popular Forces

        American advisors to the RF/PF were assigned at national, corps, division and province level. They were never seen in the field within the 720th MP Battalion Tactical Area Of Responsibility.

Regional Forces (RF's) were recruited locally and operated under the Vietnamese province sector chief (Bien Hoa) or the district sub-sector chief (Long Binh).

Popular Forces (PF’s) were recruited at village level, operated under NCO's (Noncommissioned Officers) responsible to the village chief, and local ARVN (Army of The Republic of Vietnam) district chief (Bien Hoa), and were normally employed only in their local village areas.

        The RF/PF were volunteer organizations, forbidden to recruit draft-age personnel. They operated their own training centers and had quotas to fill for ARVN schools and centers.

        Logistical support was provided by an ARVN supported administrative and direct support logistical company assigned to each sector.

         When it came to weaponry the PF’s were the "red headed stepchild" of the Vietnamese Armed Forces pecking order. In the early years of the war their weaponry consisted primarily of older vintage WWII and Korean war small arms of US manufacture. It was not unusual to see the tallest PF in the village carrying a light weight M2 carbine while the smallest was lugging the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) their squad automatic weapon.

        The shortage and the age of weapons prevented many of the local PF units from being properly armed. They were not allowed to take the weapons from their outpost unless on a village area patrol. The weapons were turned over to their relief when their shift ended and they returned to their the local village. In the event of a full scale call to duty the shortage would have been critical. After the larger US Infantry units were withdrawn under the Vietnamization program more modern weapons filtered down to the local PF forces.

        The Regional Forces (RF) light infantry company consisted of approximately 123 men, its heaviest weapon was the 60mm mortar. In addition, twenty-four river boat companies in III and IV Corps area were used for movement of troops and supplies and for medical evacuation missions.

        The PF had the lowest pay scale in the Vietnamese armed forces. A PF private, with a wife and two children, was paid at a flat rate of 2,200 piasters per month in the lowlands area or 2,400 piasters in the highlands (at 1968 exchange rates that amount to approximately $75.00 per month). An ARVN private with the same number off dependents, was given 3,690 piasters ($120.00 per month US) in pay and allowances. Families often lived with the PF, sharing their fortified positions by building their homes alongside them and often within them.

Popular Forces Operations In The Tactical Area Of Responsibility
        The PF’s that worked within the 720th MP Battalion TAOR (Tactical Area of Responsibility) all lived within the local villages. None of their families lived at the outpost with them, but would often visit during the daytime hours before curfew.

        The children were always coming by to visit with their fathers and especially the US MP’s who used to spoil them with hard candy, cool aid and their favorite treat "American bubble gum."

        In my year in the 720th TAOR I can't ever recall MP’s that I observed ever snubbing the local children. No matter what was going on the MP’s always found time to fuss with them or suddenly discover in their pockets those hidden treats sent from home for the kids.

        To many of us, that was what the war was all about, trying to give the children a brighter future.

        Many of the local PF’s served during their off duty time when not working their small piece of land or some other job during the day. They returned to spend the night in the outpost. Most if not all of the PF’s that worked within the 720th TAOR had ARVN issued green military fatigues for uniforms. However, it was not unusual to see them shed the issued clothing for civilian clothes once they were at home.

        Many RF/PF’s were assigned to work directly attached to local U.S. Forces as scouts, guides and interpreters . In the 720th MP Battalion Tactical Area Of Responsibility (TAOR), MP’s were assigned to each of the four PF village outpost to assist with security and civic action programs.

        In the initial stages of Operation STABILIZE when the 720th TAOR was first established the trust factor between the local PF’s and the U.S. MP’s was almost non existent. Many of the MP’s felt the PF’s were not to be trusted and that they were communist sympathizers. This was primarily based on the fact that the PF’s were local and the four primary villages with the TAOR were ripe with VC activity before Operation STABILIZE.

       In the early stages of Operation STABILIZE (1967) Battalion HQ initiated a program of assigning a lone MP as an advisor to the local Village PF ambush teams. Because both the MP and PF squad lacked bilingual communication capabilities it turned into a total disaster and was ended quickly.

        On 15 October 1967 a twenty-one man PF Platoon lead by 24 year old SGT Huynh Van Hai, of Bien Hoa City, was attached to the 720th MP Battalion's B Company Platoon commanded by 2LT Robert S. Wilkerson and assigned to the TAOR.

        As time went by the MP’s eventually gained a respect for SGT Huynh and many of the PF’s The respect and trust continued to grow as MP’s eventually moved into the PF outpost in the TAOR and lived and worked with them daily.

       SGT Hai is shown right cleaning his weapon after a field operation. >

        Notwithstanding all the shortcomings of their unit structure and armament capabilities, most PF’s proved to be valuable conduits of intelligence from the local villagers, and many were brave beyond a fault when having to defend their homes and families from local Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) aggression.

        When a selected few of the local PF’s were assigned as scouts and interpreters to the Battalion Ambush and Reconnaissance Teams they were found to be a valuable asset. Their knowledge of the back rivers and trails outside the villages in which the grew up in often proved the difference between a safe and successful patrol or just another routine walk in the hot sun. They were expert in identifying the enemy routes of travel, and the local enemy operatives through the false identification documents they carried. They also obtained and passed along valuable information from their neighbors in the village who trusted them more that the Vietnamese Army assets from outside agencies. The one major shortcoming in the early years in some but not all instances, was their lack of military training and discipline.

        The initial group of local PF’s assigned to the B Company Ambush Teams displayed exceptional courage and dedication to their squads and missions. The mere fact that they were tasked with rooting out local enemy soldiers and sympathizers from their village while on duty then required to live weaponless within the village when off duty was a daunting task. In many instances the MP squads saw to it that their PF was provided with a personal weapon to carry when off duty, usually a .45 cal. pistol.

Popular Forces Interpreter-Scouts Assigned to Ambush Squads
"The Best of the Best"
        They never received the appropriate recognition owed by our and their commands. They were the best of the best. They lived and worked in the same villages with the families of the local enemy cadre they fought, killed and captured, and because of their commands regulations, were not permitted to bear arms when not on official duty. There aren't many U.S. soldiers that would volunteer to work under those conditions.
Click on each photograph for their profile
SGT Tanh
CPL Lee Van Muon
CPL "Frenchie"
PVT Vo Van Duc
SGT Xichs

         MP’s that worked in the TAOR outpost would often classify the seriousness of the latest intelligence reports on enemy activity received from battalion S-2 based on the responses of their local PF’s

        The rule of thumb in the outpost went "If the PF’s all show up and do not appeared to be worried, there will be no attack tonight." If a majority didn't report for duty at night it was a warning of enemy activity in the village," The stayed home because they wanted to protect and defend their family. Many of the PF’s could be found at the outpost socializing during their off duty time.

        The cream of the PF staff of the rank of Sergeant down were normally the men selected to work in the often coveted positions of MP unit scouts, guides and interpreters.

        The ability to speak and understand American language, at least in a limited capacity, was also a must.

        As the years passed the caliber of training, education, and weaponry of the interpreters assigned to assist the Battalion ambush teams and river patrol units greatly improved. In 1969 the local village Popular Forces scout interpreters were phased out by better educated and specially trained Regional Forces troops headquartered out of Bien Hoa.

        The MP platoons and squads that worked on a full time daily bases with these men often went out of their way to insure that "their" interpreters and his family received special treatment, privileges, and access as guests of the MPs to areas on post not normally accessible to the other Vietnamese troops.

      There were even instances where the MP’s tried, although unsuccessfully, to obtain authorization for their interpreters to go on out of country rest & relaxation (R&R) leave with them.

    The local PFs were relieved of their scout-interpreter duties in mid to late 1969 with the arrival of specially trained ARVN interpreters. The MPs gain  in better trained and disciplined interpreters, could never match what they lost in a PF respected by the local villagers, who knew the local VC cadre by sight, and was at home in the jungle and rice paddies of the TAOR.

G2433 ? PFC Henslee, SP/4 Durden, unidentified MP and two PFs from Long Binh Tan on A Company patrol.
G2431a ? Vo Van Duc, interpreter for Ambush Team #76 and members of Outpost #4 Popular Forces Platoon.
G1853? SP/4 Rosenblatt and unidentified ARVN Interpreter on Jeep Patrol in TAOR.
G1884? Unidentified ARVN Interpreter at An Xuan Village Outpost #1.
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