South Vietnamese Regional Force

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South Vietnamese Regional Force
Flag of ARVN-RFPF.png
ARVN-RFPF Flag.[1]
Activeearly 1960s-1964
CountrySouth Vietnam
Nickname(s)Ruff-Puffs (used by American Forces)
Motto(s)Bảo quốc, An dân (The Nation, The People)
EngagementsWar in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, the South Vietnamese Regional Forces were Army of the Republic of Vietnam militia. Recruited locally, they fell into two broad groups - Regional Forces and the more local-level Popular Forces (The RFPF's, called Ruff-Puffs by American forces). In 1964, the Regional Forces were integrated into the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and placed under the command of the Joint General Staff.

Initially fielded as village-level or province-level defence forces, these units were militia-men while also working part or full-time.[2] They were provided obsolescent equipment and served as a front-line force against armed attacks but were considerably marginalised and demoralised during the American-intervention, as they were relegated to guard and security duties.[2] Following Vietnamization these units once again came back to prominence as they became better trained and tasked with carrying out wider area operations despite lacking artillery and air support. They would serve as front-line provincial defence units while Regular Forces were deployed against conventional People's Army of Vietnam forces, and grew to gradually number almost 250,000 by 1974.[3]

The concept of Regional and Popular Forces is in-line with countering the Local Force and Main Force structure of the Viet Cong as they lacked firepower support, while the ARVN Regular Forces fought the PAVN.[4] Local militia came to play a very effective role in the war, as the style of small-unit warfare was better suited for guerrilla conflicts with most more familiar with the region and terrain.[2] Despite being poorly paid, these forces were much more capable at detecting infiltration and holding civilian areas.[5] Accounting for an estimated 2-5% of war budget, they were thought to have accounted for roughly 30% of casualties inflicted upon VC/NVA throughout the entire war.[6] Part of this derives in these units generally being more capable of engaging in small-unit, highly-mobile tactics which proved difficult for slow-moving equipment-heavy units.[5]

These young men, from all of South Vietnam's 44 provinces, will return to their native villages after 13 weeks' training.


During the early 1960s the Regional Forces manned the country-wide outpost system and defended critical points, such as bridges and ferries. There were some 9,000 such positions, half of them in the Mekong Delta region.

Regional Forces played a key role in regional security in the early phase of the war, and while RF/PF members were marginalised and side-lined during the American-intervention as Regular Force Army of the Republic of Vietnam Units were relegated to guarding bases and areas, badly affecting morale and purpose.[7] When U.S. forces began to withdraw from South Vietnam during 1969 and the ARVN began the task of fighting the communist main force units, Regional Forces took on a new importance. For the first time, they were deployed outside their home areas and were sometimes attached to ARVN units. By 1973 the Regional Forces had grown to 1,810 companies, some of which were consolidated into battalions. Charged primarily with local defense under provincial government control, they were too lightly armed and equipped, marginally trained, and lacked the unit cohesion to withstand attack by regular People's Army of Vietnam units supported by tanks and artillery. Most forces were easily subdued, retreated or were destroyed during the Easter Offensive.


  1. ^ Lễ ra mắt Hội Địa phương quân Bắc Cali
  2. ^ a b c Wiest, Andrew (October 2009). Vietnam's Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN. NYU Press. pp. 75–85. ISBN 9780814794678.
  3. ^ Quang Truong, Ngo (1978). Territorial Forces. U.S. ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Emerson, Gloria (1970-08-16). "'Ruff Puffs,' Vietnamese Militia, Hunt Enemy by Night". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  6. ^ Krepinevich, Andrew F. (1986-05-01). The army and Vietnam. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 219–222. ISBN 9780801828638.
  7. ^ Wiest, Andrew (October 2009). Vietnam's Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN. NYU Press. pp. 73–78. ISBN 9780814794678.