The Popular Force Beret

Popular Force Beret

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Berets such as above often were worn by South Vietnamese Popular Forces in Duc Hue District, Hau Nghia Province, South Vietnam, and were probably adopted by other Popular Force (PF) platoons as well. While unauthorized headgear, American soldiers serving on Mobile Advisory Teams (MATs) frequently wore the beret as a means of identifying with the PFs, whose mission was to protect and secure rural hamlets from attacking Viet Cong & NVA. PFs were platoon-sized units. Regional Force (RF) companies conducted similar missions for larger rural villages. We called RFs and PFs rough-puffs. Some units were quite effective, and recent literature paints a more favorable picture of rough-puffs who comprised approximately 40 percent of South Vietnam’s fighting forces. Traditional American combat units too often thought of ruff-puffs derisively. For many MAT members–a majority ?–on the ground alongside RFs and PFs the opposite was true; rough-puffs equated to respect and affection. In theory five men–two officers, two senior NCOs and a medic–constituted a MAT; however, units were seldom at full strength. We lived with and fought alongside of RFs and PFs. Our mission was to train, teach weaponry and tactics, and orchestrate artillery and gunship support when engaged with the enemy. The Internet finally includes data on MATs. Also, consult the following memoirs: Once a Warrior King by David Donovan (pseudonym–he’s for real; I met him) published 1985, Coyote Jack/Drawing Meaning from Life and Vietnam by yours truly published 2006, and Ruff Puff – A MAT Team Leader’s Story by Phil Tompkins published 2011. Anyone aware of other MAT memoirs please let me know.