The Scoop Deck

Ooh-rah. Urr-augh? Wheew-rawr?

AL ASAD AIR BASE, IRAQ — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said what could have been his first “ooh-rah” today, at the close of a brief all-hands call up at Camp Ubaydi, in the northern part of Anbar Province. Specifically, he said “whew-RAW,” and, immediately recognizing the spirited greeting of their beloved Corps, the Marines in the audience all responded in kind.

The more time I spend around Marines, though, the more I’m learning that there are apparently as many ways to say it as there are leathernecks. Here at Al Asad, where there are tens of thousands of Marines working for Multi-National Force-West, I’ve already heard at least half a dozen different variations on it, ranging from a clipped, seal bark “ura” — which includes a kind of throat click — to a much more drawn-out, southern gentleman-sounding “yeeeuuwhh rauuughhh.”

If I were an NPR reporter, I’d make every Marine I met say “ur-ugghh” or “hurrruh” or “ughraaawr” into a microphone, then spool them all together for a nice four-minute drive-time segment about the cultural diversity of the Marine Corps. But instead I thought I’d throw it out to the Deck, especially our friends on the green side, and ask how you say it, or how you think it should be said. What made you say it that way? Let us know in the comments.



  1. campbell Says:
    August 7th, 2009 at 9:18 am

    As former Marine during Nam, and father of (not my fault!) an Army officer……I was shocked, dismayed, disgusted, amused to hear my Army son first utter such drivel. And a thousand times more so to hear Marines doing so.

    How should “it” be said? NOT!!!

    semper fidelis, quietly and surely.

  2. HM2 Bashan Faure Says:
    August 9th, 2009 at 12:24 am

    its all in fun, the first time i hear it was in a cadence during bootcamp. “ohh rah” get some!

  3. Nancy Jean Schoo Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    As an official “NavyMom”, I was taught by my son, HOO-Yah! He has now volunteered as an IA in Iraq and I believe it has taken a bit of a new tone given his Army surroundings. I kid with my Army friends that he’ll show the Army how to say it right. I guess all that truly matters is the pride behind it.

  4. Debbie Day Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 8:29 am

    I’m sorry…but my Marine son would say Hoo-RAH!
    Hearing 600 of them standing strong in their battalion at graduation…no mistaking it!

  5. Mike Kennedy Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 8:35 am

    I heard (maybe urban legend) from my drill instructors (who were WWII, Korea, and Vietnam vets) back in 1971 that it was actually a variation on I RA! in honor of Ira Hayes. I have always liked that story and have kept it as my choice to believe.

  6. Sliz Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 8:56 am

    The diving klaxon sound is the most logical point of origin. The kind and gentle version of “ooh-rah” evolved over time to be used as a tamped down version of the original. The foundation however is in the deep, guttural, forceful, klaxon-like bark that spews forth from the diaphragm of a select few that know how to find it.

    Another funny version that started a couple of decades ago was to bark out the name of Lou Rawls really deep and loud!

    It’s a great cultural dynamic in the Corps.

  7. Tom Pitman Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 9:13 am

    It doesn’t matter to me which way it is vocalized. These young men and women are the finest force representing our country in this generation. For those of us no longer on active duty, I’m proud of them and still proud to wear the title, United States Marine.

    Tom Pitman
    USNA ’69
    Colonel, USMCR (Ret.)

  8. Gary Lundeen Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Oohrah! (Marine Corps and Coast Guard)
    Hooah! (Army and Air Force)
    Hooyah! (Navy and Merchant Marine)
    Don’t know the origins of hooah and hooyah but in the 1950′s a group of Marines ostensibly began using the sound after being aboard a submarine, which was retrofitted for Recon Marines, with the sound originating from the “aarugha” klaxon that followed the “Dive! Dive!” alert. The Marines then used the sound in running cadences, which made its way via Drill Instructors to Marine Corps Recruit Depots and eventually the sound morphed into oohrah. By definition oohrah means anything except “no”. Oohrah!

  9. Dana Moss Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 11:29 am

    If memory serves correctly (as a Cold War warrior), ooh-rah is derived from the Russian word meaning “kill” or “murder,” ostensibly meant to instill primal fear into the hearts of the Communist soldiers who were about to receive bodily injury from the Marines who were seeking to “locate, close with and destroy by fire and close combat” our sworn mortal enemies.

  10. Don Taylor Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Having spent the last 9 years working as a contractor with the Army and four of those with a retired Marine major close aboard, I will say that hoo-ah and ooh-rah are correct for the Army and Marine Corps respectively. Sailors don’t seem to make a corresponding noise. I hear though that the Air Force’s singular grunt is something like “Fore.”

    (I know, old joke.)

  11. 2nd Lt Mateo, USMC Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    A Marine Captain once told me “’OohRah’ is a state of mind and is the coolest thing that you can ever say if you believe it to be true. Other variations of this beloved term are also equally as righteous such as ‘Errrr’, ‘Yut’ and ‘Rah’.”

    Needless to say, intonation and context govern the precise meaning of the word, however generally it remains most commonly used as an acknowledgement, an assurance of understanding, a greeting of the day, or a simple interjection of positive reinforcement.

    Of course, other services have their versions. As I understand it, Army’s “Hua” is an acronym for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged”. However, in my conversations with friends from other services, these duplications fail to carry the same meaning and connotations of the USMC’s “rah”. The Marine Captain I mentioned before had this to say about the Navy’s “Whoyah”:

    ‘Whoyah!’ is never cool and should be permanently removed from the American lexicon.”

    I am inclined to agree. Errr.

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  13. Sparky Says:
    August 10th, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    “Hoorah” (I get a lot of booters saying this crap so I guess they teach it to them up in Great Lakes now) aside, I hear the phrase “You tracking?” a lot from people who have been on IA. The same people don’t like it when I reply by staring at them blankly and saying “I have no idea what you mean by tracking” until I force them to explain that it’s a term the Army uses. Then I hold my hands out, shrug and say “We’re not the Army” and walk away.

    I thought we had a cool way of talking about stuff but apparently it wasn’t tactical enough. If you really care that much then there is this great blue to green program that our CCC would like to talk to you about.

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