Pete Parker’s Story on the Origin of the word “Hooah”
You’ve all heard the word “Hooah” But do you know where it really came from? Pete Parker recounts the story – He was there.
By Pete Parker C-2/75 75-79 8-76
Timeline: These events happened in the 1974-1977 timeframe.
Locations: Ft. Polk, LA, Ft. Lewis, WA, Ft. Benning, GA
Peter S. Parker C-2/75 (1975-79 timeframe) recounts the following (taken from an article he wrote of his recollections which was later published in Patrolling Magazine around 2003).
Donald Bruce from B/75th (1972-74 timeframe ) has a different story of Hooah from his time in B/75th Ranger Company. Both overlap, and also, as can be expected, conflict in places.
This story of the word “Hooah” is told from Peter S. Parker’s personal observations and recollections of what he witnessed in his timeframe.
Ft. Polk, Louisiana, February -> June 1975
In the early 1970s, as a Vietnam War was winding down, the Army was deactivating and/or re-consolidating the units coming back home. Many of the LRRP and Ranger companies from Vietnam were deactivated and only a few remained. Alpha Company (A/75th infantry) was relocated to Fort Hood Texas and had a little over 100 rangers assigned to it. Bravo company (B/75th infantry) was at Fort Carson, Colorado initially, and later moved to Fort Lewis, Washington. Gen. Creighton Abrams ordered the activation of two modern Ranger battalions in 1974. The first Ranger Battalion was located at Fort Stewart Georgia and activated in March of 1974. The second Ranger Battalion was located at Fort Lewis Washington and was activated in October of 1974. Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) AJ “Bo” Baker was the battalion commander.
In February of 1975 I went on active duty with enlistment contract guaranteeing my choice of unit as the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis Washington. I shipped out to Fort Polk Louisiana for basic and AIT training. I spent from February through June in Fort Polk Louisiana. Somewhere during this time, a message came down that anybody going to the second Ranger Battalion had to go to a meeting after hours. So one night I reported to the company headquarters building were shortly thereafter a jeep arrived and picked me up to take me to this meeting. The meeting was held in a building on North Fort Polk.
I was surprised at how few people were there. Including the Jeep driver there were only eight people total in the room. Five privates, the Jeep driver, Sergeant Major (CSM) Walter Morgan, and this huge bear of a man LTC AJ “Bo” Baker. Although LTC Baker was very tall, big, robust, and intimidating, he spoke with a soft yet serious voice.
Col. Baker briefed us on the formation of the unit, the standards for the physical training that would be expected of us, and the impact the newly formed second Ranger Battalion was having on Fort Lewis’s personnel.
He also went into his past history in the Green Berets in Vietnam, some of the missions they did including a near ambush which he had survived through proper training and immediate action drills. The company he was in was so well-trained that when they were ambushed no commands were needed and everyone in the unit immediately turned into the ambushers and let loose with everything they had while assaulting through the ambushers position to the far side.
The firepower was so devastating that the ambushers thought they had mistakenly attacked a battalion sized element. LTC Baker emphasized the criticality of training, the high standards, and the esprit de corps that followed there from.
Col. Baker told about the new Ranger unit, and said that one of the things that they were doing on Fort Lewis was that they had this word, and they were saying this word everywhere they went. And that they were getting a lot of attention from this new word. It was a Vietnamese word that meant “Yes”.
CSM Walter Morgan was also soft-spoken and deadly serious. CSM Morgan also briefed us on some of things to expect. LTC Baker and CSM Morgan were traveling the country recruiting the NCO’s (Sergeants) that were to form the backbone of the new unit.
While they were on Fort Polk they also wanted to meet anyone who was headed to the second Ranger Battalion.
Hence this briefing that we were all attending – all five of us.
At the end of the briefing LTC Baker asked if we had any questions.
When no one else ask any questions, I raised my hand. LTC Baker called on me and I asked “What is the word?”
Col. Baker looked at CSM Morgan, looked back at me and said in a soft and normal voice “Oh, the word is Hooah”.
Hooah said softly does NOT convey the meaning nor the significance of the word! Us newbies all looked at each other with puzzled looks on our faces. Nobody understood. Yet. We would later, when we got there.
Point: None of us had ever heard the word before, nor did any of us understand what it meant, or even how it was to be said.
Airborne School, Ft. Benning, Georgia, June 1975
This was the first of several instances where I failed to encounter this word. In June of 1975 I completed basic and AIT training and shipped out to attend airborne school in Fort Benning, Georgia. During the month I was at Fort Benning one weekend I went out to Harmony Church and saw the Ranger demonstration put on at Victory Pond (now known as the Hurley Hill area, after Pat Hurley a fellow Charlie Company Second Battalion Ranger who would go on to serve in Delta Force and who was later killed in the first Gulf War).
This was my first real taste of just what Ranger training was going to be all about.
Hundreds of civilians, family members, fellow service members, press and other visitors traveled on dozens of buses to see the Ranger demonstration that day.
And what an impressive demonstration it was. Waterborne insertions from helicopters, explosions, lots of shooting (blanks), grenade simulators, flash bangs, underwater explosions, slide for life, log walk rope drop, hand-to-hand combat demonstrations and more.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but nobody said the word Hooah. Not even once.
Point: Hooah was not being used at Ft. Benning in or around Airborne School nor in Ranger School in the summer of 1975
2nd Ranger Battalion, Ft. Lewis, Washington, July 1975
After finishing up airborne school in mid-August I packed my bags and shipped out of Fort Lewis Washington. After spending five days at the 525th replacement company, I got my orders to report to Charlie Company, 2/75 Rangers.
At this time the battalion headquarters was still on North Fort Lewis in the old wooden World War II barracks. The Rangers had just gotten their permanent barracks on the main part of Fort Lewis, down at the South end of Gray Army airfield. After reporting into Battalion headquarters, I was assigned to C Company and eventually a somebody drove up and picked me up and took me down to the company A/O. I reported in, signed in, and was subsequently assigned to first squad second platoon.
Here I heard he word “Hooah” being properly used (loudly!). Then I understood.
But there were some incongruities. There were many different spellings. Whoa, Who-ah, Whoah, Hoo-ah Hoo AH, Hooah, and some more. HUA was NOT one of them. I never encountered the word spelled HUA, or Hua. Many years later, people would tell stories, that H.U.A. stood for Heard, Understood, and Acknowledged. Those were stories that were NOT around when this word came into being.
The XO of 2/75 (Major Wentzel or Major Powell ???) was at one point in time in charge of the Battalion newsletter. Everybody wanted to name it “The Hooah”. Except that Major didn’t think it should be spelled the now accepted way. So one day the Major came in and said, we’re calling it the “Sua Sponte”. And so our Battalion newspaper became “The Sua Sponte”. (The Ranger motto – which is Latin for “Of Their Own Accord”).
Point: The spelling of the word Hooah was not yet agreed upon, even in the summer of 75.
Ranger School, Ft. Benning, Georgia, March 1976
Ranger School. As in Thee Ranger School. As in 58 days, nights, and weekends, 24/7 with NO time off.
When we first got there it was a few days before the training was to begin. As is typical under these circumstances we were put on detail. One day the Ranger Instructor was directing us (loudly) as to what we were to have gotten done and by when. One of those things was that everyone need to have a “Ranger Haircut” asking us if anybody had any questions. One of the officers asked “What’s a Ranger haircut?”
The RI yelled a one word answer “Off!”
The officer got the message. During one of these formations somebody made the mistake of saying “Hooah”. This turned out to be a mistake. The RI’s immediately jumped on us yelling “You 2nd Batt Guys, you’re not supposed to be saying that, your supposed to be growling.”
I later asked some of the 1st Batt Rangers about this. They agreed with the RI, and said, “He’s right, we’re supposed to be growling.” Upon further questioning, I found out that 1st Batt did not use the word. They knew about us using it, but did not use it themselves.
I remember being confused and thinking, “But I thought Hooah was the Ranger word…”
So we didn’t use the word during Ranger School. We growled.
Point: “Hooah” was not used by 1st Batt, and it’s use was severely discouraged by the Ranger Department / School. They in fact knew it was a 2nd Batt phenomena as they immediately identified us as “2nd Batt guys”.
The word Hooah was not in use outside of the 2nd Ranger Battalion in my 1975-79 timeframe.
Hooah was not heard at Airborne School, forbidden at Ranger School, and not in use at 1st Batt (then based at Ft. Stewart, Georgia).
The spelling of the word had not yet been settled.
The word was not in use before or outside of the 2nd Batt – and went on to expand in the Army, and then worldwide.
Col Baker & Sergeant Major Morgan drove the usage and the adoption of the word as part of the esprit de corps in creating and building the 2nd Ranger Battalion. The Esprit de Corps of the Rangers has caused “Hooah” to have gone on to be a worldwide phenomenon.