The Civilian Irregular Defense Groups (CIDG, pronounced sid-gee) were originally created by the US mission in Saigon with the aim of forming a paramilitary force from the minority groups of South Vietnam. The two main aims of the project were to strengthen and broaden the counterinsurgency efforts of the South Vietnamese government. The other aim was to prevent the Montagnards and other minority groups, from being influenced by communist propaganda and fighting for the Viet Cong. This would have given the communists complete control over large strategic areas of land that were owned by the Montagnards.


In the Autumn of 1961 the US mission sought, and was granted, permission by the South Vietnamese government to approach the Rhade tribal leaders. The proposition that the US made to the tribal leaders was that if they (the Rhade) would declare their allegiance to the south, and participate in a village defense program, then in return they would be supplied with weapons and the training on how to use them.

In late October of 1961 the largest of the Rhade camps at Buon Enao in Darlac province, was visited by a representative from the US embassy and a Special Forces medical sergeant. A couple of weeks of visits and meetings with the village elders took place during which the US proposals were discussed. The outcome of these discussions was that the villagers agreed to support the South Vietnamese government. They would also build a fence around Buon Enao for their own protection, and to show that they had chosen to take part in the new program. They also agreed to dig shelters within the village so as to give protection to women and children in case of attack; construct housing for use as a training center, to build a hospital, and set up an intelligence network to control movement within the village and to provide early warning of an attack.

By the second week in December the above tasks had been completed, 50 volunteers from a nearby village were brought in and trained as a local security force to protect Buon Enao. After all this was done the program was extended to another 40 Rhade villages within a 15 kilometer radius of Buon Enao. The chiefs and subchiefs of these villages were sent to Buon Enao for training in village defense techniques. As the program grew, half of a Special Forces A-Det (A-35 of the 1st SF) and 10 members of the Vietnamese Special Forces LLDB (Luc Luong Dac Biet), with a Vietnamese detachment commander, were sent to help out in the training of the village defenders and the full-time strike force.

By April 1962 the CIDG program was growing at a fast rate, it already had a 1,000 man village defense militia and 300 full time strikers with which to defend 28 villages. With the experiment at Buon Enao a complete success, the decision was made to expand the program to other Rhade hamlets in which 5th Special Forces groups were already operating. At this point it was decided to turn the whole CIDG program over to the 5th SFG, working in co management with the Vietnamese Special Forces.

The normal way of operating was to have a Special Forces "A" Detachment assigned to a hamlet or a village, whereby the "A" Det would then raise a strike force. The camp strike forces (which were normally of Company strength) were reaction forces to counter problems in the village area. These strike forces also conducted patrols to disrupt the VC from their bases.

The average CIDG soldier, given the training he had was more than capable of holding his own against the local VC units. And when given additional support they could perform just as well against main force VC and NVA units.The CIDG program under the control of the 5th SFG eventually expanded to a size where it had 84 "A" camps, and over 42,000 CIDG strikers under it's command.


By 1969 the decision had been made to start to transfer the CIDG forces over to the Vietnamese military. With the majority of the CIDG units being converted to Vietnamese Ranger Companies and Battalions, those CIDG units that were situated along the border infiltration routes were renamed as Border Ranger units. This transfer had been completed by the time the 5th SFG supposedly departed Vietnam in 1971.


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Printed camp strike force patch.

Silk woven, Duclap camp CIDG patch.

Silk woven, camp Buon Sar Pa CIDG patch.

Silk woven, camp E Pul Blar Wang CIDG patch.

Buon Mi Ga CIDG
camp patch