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Some American troops called them “Ruff-Puffs” and laughed at them. We called them our brothers and lived and fought alongside them every day in South Vietnam. By the end of my year as a Mobile Advisory Team (MAT) leader I admired all of them.
This is the story of one MAT team (5 American Army advisors)) in one of the 244 Districts in South Vietnam and about a great counterpart-the District Chief .
In 1969, the first year the 200 or so MAT teams were deployed in Vietnam, legend says half of their outposts were overrun -- wiped out. Fortunately our team survived -- somehow. This story is dedicated to those who never made it back to "The World".
The “Vietnamization” program was a general mobilization of 500,000 local defense forces called Regional Forces (RF) and Popular Forces (PF). -- thus the nickname “Ruff Puff”. This new militia’s mission was village and hamlet security -- and they started with nothing. We helped them get uniforms and new M-16 rifles and other weapons, trained them and then helped them fight against local Viet Cong and even North Vietnamese Army troops in our small coastal District.
So we looked at this as our homeland and used all the American artillery, air strikes, helicopters and whatever other resources we could scrounge to help our brothers protect their villages, families, schools , rice paddies, bridges and homes - and to win the war at the local level.
Find out why we who served know that the "advisory" role that our troops are undertaking in Iraq and Afghanistan is really a full-fledged combat mission. Don't let anybody tell you different!
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