This week, Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry became only the second living Medal of Honor recipient for the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He and his fellow Rangers deserve our most heartfelt thanks and gratitude.
Just don’t wish them a heartfelt “hooah!”
“Hooah,” also spelled “huah,” is ubiquitous in the conventional Army. Some say it stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged,” but it is often shouted to express determination and Army spirit. Put another way, it is to soldiers what “fuggedaboutit” is to mobsters.
But Rangers typically avoid saying “hooah,” said Maj. Brian DeSantis, a spokesman for the 75th Ranger Regiment. “Hooah” is considered conventional Army slang, he said, and the Ranger community just never picked it up.
Did “Black Hawk Down” have any bearing on that decision – the reason mentioned by one Ranger and his buddies?
When The Rumor Doctor started looking into “hooah” avoidance theory, the mystery deepened.
“Maybe it’s because it just sounds ridiculous,” said Andrew Exum, who led Ranger platoons in Iraq and Afghanistan. “As you may or may not know, any stock Army phrase can be rendered ironic with the right smart-ass tone!”
Perhaps, The Rumor Doctor postulated, Rangers avoid using “hooah” to differentiate themselves from the conventional Army. But Exum poured cold water on that.
“I think there are enough differences between the Ranger Regiment and Big Army without going into linguistic tics,” Exum said in an email. “What separates the Ranger Regiment from the conventional forces is a combination of higher standards, more training and greater selectivity.
“That,” he said, “and tan berets.”
Rangers do make an effort to distinguish themselves from the conventional Army and Special Forces, said Mark Bowden, author of “Black Hawk Down,” which depicted the epic battle in 1993 between special operations forces and Somali militiamen in Mogadishu.
“It was evident when I worked on ‘Black Hawk Down’ back in the early 1990s that they took tremendous pride in being Rangers and in being separate,” he said. “They were very mindful of it then, and I’m sure they’re even more so today.”
One former Ranger said he and his buddies vowed never to say “hooah” after the movie version of the book came out in 2001.
Not only did the actors say “hooah” too often in the movie, but they over-enunciated and made it sound over the top, said Tom Amenta, who was in the 75th Ranger Regiment between 2000 and 2004.
“Every single guy in the regiment heard every actor say ‘hooah’ on screen every five seconds, and we were all like, ‘F- this, we are not saying that anymore.’” Amenta said.
THE RUMOR DOCTOR’S DIAGNOSIS: It is true that Rangers do not typically say “hooah.” There’s no single reason, but for The Doc, that just contributes to the mystique.
WHAT SHOULD THE RUMOR DOCTOR INVESTIGATE NEXT? The Rumor Doctor always appreciates your suggestions.