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Story by Sgt. Audrey Brunson (Soldiers, JAN 1995)
YOU can hear it echoing from the hallowed halls of Fort Benning, Ga.'s Infantry Center to the ranges at Fort Lewis, Wash. It is uttered at award ceremonies, bellowed from formations, and repeated before, during and after training missions.
Visit just about any Army office building, sports field, dining facility, gymnasium or academy and you will probably hear someone exclaim "HOOAH!"
No matter how one might spell the word -- with or without a hyphen, a U instead of two Os, and so on -- the word is still an expression of high morale, strength and confidence. And, when powered by an overwhelmingly proud, and usually loud, tone of voice, hooah seems to stomp out any possibility of being bound by the written word.
"It's an affirmation that I fully agree with and support the idea or intent expressed by the person to whom I make that response," said Maj. Gen. F.A. Gorden, Military District of Washington commander. "It applies not only to the letter of what was said, but to the spirit of what was said."
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan has his interpretation. "I don't know how exactly to spell it, but I know what it means," Sullivan said. "It means we have broken the mold. We are battle focused. Hooah says ÔLook at me. I'm a warrior. I'm ready. Sergeants trained me to standard. I serve America every day, all the way.'"
The modern hooah, primarily associated with but not restricted to the infantry, originated with the Second Dragoons in Florida as "hough" in 1841. In an attempt to end the war with the Seminoles, a meeting was arranged with the Indian Chief Coacoochee. After the meeting, there was a banquet.
Garrison officers made a variety of toasts, including "Here's to luck" and "The old grudge" before drinking. Coacoochee asked Gopher John, an interpreter, the meaning of the officers' toasts. Gopher John responded, "It means, ÔHow d'ye do.'"
The chief then lifted his cup above his head and exclaimed in a deep, guttural voice, "hough."
And so the expression was born. It has since achieved high popularity -- having lasted for more than 150 years, through the American Civil War, two world wars, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam war, Operation Just Cause in Grenada and the Persian Gulf war.
And the expression continually grows in popularity. Once heard mainly from infantry soldiers, hooah has spread throughout the rest of the Army. Soldiers will continue to acknowledge a mission to be accomplished, a job well done, victory at a sporting event or any occasion imaginable with hooah.