The SkywalkerSwartz Blog

Thursday, September 25, 2003


First, a brief update on what's going on at dive school: We just started pierside dives, which involve going not too deep (maybe 25 feet at the most) along the pier, which is pretty cool ('cause we're doing simulated search/salvage/repair operations) but also a bit cold and murky (it's really muddy down there!). On a sad note, though, we lost yet another classmate: Brandon Flores, a really fun guy from San Diego, had a really bad migraine (part of his face went numb and all that), and unfortunately, migraines are an automatic "medical drop from training." So, with about one week left of easy stuff to go, the guy has to leave.

Anyhow, about this blog's title: "Hoo-yah" is the exclamation that all Navy Special Warfare (i.e. SEALs) and Special Operations (e.g. EOD) forces yell...and thus is our constant battle cry here at dive school. When we pass an instructor, we yell in greeting, "Hoo-yah, Instructor Chablinsky!" or whatever his name is. When given an order, we respond "Hoo-yah!" There was even a "Hoo-yah, America!" when they did a half-mast flag-raising ceremony for 9/11! "Hoo-yah" basically means pretty much anything--it's a greeting, affirmation, and indication of motivation. It even means "do you understand" and "I understand": "Now, I want you to do your in-water checks as soon as you reach the surface, hoo-yah?" "Hoo-yah!"

Now, I can't seem to track down where "hoo-yah" came from...there is one website that mentions several possible, but likely aprocryphal, origins, including that it is a transliteration of "yahoo" (before the Internet!). There was a very silly Military Times article about similar cheers in the other services (a second, shorter version is here). Apparently, there was a movement for the Air Force to start yelling "Air Power!" instead of their traditional "hoo-ah!", which they share with the Army. The Army has a tribute to "hooah" on their Infrantry page. You also might remember Al Pacino playing a blind retired Army guy in Scent of a Woman yelling the phrase.

The Marine Corps says "ooh-rah," which may sound similar at first, but I (and the bulk of the Corps) beg to differ: Being a dork, I was watching C-SPAN, where President Bush was giving yet another speech in front of a bizillion Army personnel (a popular photo op with this administration). The damn grunts kept interrupting him at every sentence with "hoo-ah!" Now, I don't mind making some noise to show one's motivation, but there can be too much of a good thing. And I also wouldn't necessarily call it a "good thing"--they were saying "hoo-ah" with a rising intonation, which made it sound almost like a question. "Hoo-ah?" It was about the same thing as the "hoo-rah, hoo-rah" at the end of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home/The Ants Go Marching One by One." Get it? Not very inspiring. When Marines say "ooh-rah," it's a meaty, gutteral war cry, with the emphasis on the (slightly higher toned) first syllable: OOH-rah! Moreover, not only the Military Times article but also Gunny "G" R.W. "Dick" Gaines' website (mirror is here) claim that "ooh-rah" originates from the Recon Marines, who used to spend a lot of time on submarines (yeah, submarines!), and that the exclamation is thus a corruption of the "a-RUU-gah!" of the diving klaxon. (You know what I'm talking about: in the old World War II movies, the captain yells, "Dive, dive!" and the klaxon goes off. Sadly, most modern subs have a much less cool electronic klaxon. Sounds courtesy of the DoD audio page.) Anyhow, unless you want to get beat on by a bunch of jarheads, don't suggest that "hooah" and "ooh-rah" are at all the same.

If anybody finds out where "hoo-yah" came from, let me's sad that even the Military Times would neglect this great battle cry--one that Jesse Ventura used at the end of his gubanatorial inauguration speech!

Monday, September 22, 2003

Attention to Colors

Now, most of my civilian friends will look at this heading and think, "Aw, so Luke is paying attention to colors--how artistic! Are the leaves already changing color in Florida?" However, in military-speak, this means, roughly, "Stand at attention because they're raising the flag!"

The other day, our class was playing Ultimate (frisbee) with another class (actually the Basic Diving Officer class which includes fellow NROTC UC Berkeley alum Mike Bailey...), and generally having a fun time. It really wasn't all that different from any other Ultimate game I've played (...especially because usually I'm playing with people who don't know what they're doing, and we certainly didn't know what we were doing. What? You think I'm stupid enough to take on Hunt and the other SMUT-ers?) Anyway, totally normal game...until the trumpet starts playing Colors.

Suddenly, the entire field went silent, and we all stood at attention as the red, white, and blue made its way up the flagpole. It was a fleeting moment, but one that reminded me that we aren't just a bunch of 20-somethings (well, and a few 30-somethings, and one 40-something) playing a game, but that we have all pledged to defend the nation for which the flag stands. For all the Bush Administration's co-opting of the flag for "patriotism," I think for most military people, the flag will always be above party or partisanship...and I thought that was pretty special.

A kinda' sappy moment, brought to you by the letter E and the number 32.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Dive School Pool Week: Fun Under Pressure

Well, I haven't blogged for a while (a combination of little free time and not much Internet access), but we just finished the hardest two days of "Pool Week," the Dive School crucible that each student must pass in order to be a Navy Diver. Here are some off-the-cuff impressions/discriptions of the past few days:
  • First, they're very concerned about safety here, so even though I may use descriptions like "they try to drown you," you're never actually in danger of being hurt. Even the worst thing that can happen--an arterial gas embolism from bolting to the surface--is prevented by having instructors ready to tug you down and give you air.

  • The day begins with setting up the scuba gear--each person has a specific spot on the pool deck ("three tiles away from this, two tiles away from that") and a specific way to lay everything out. You also have to do a Preventative Maintenance System (or "PMS"...Navy guys complain about it almost as much as women complain about their version...) check on all your gear to make sure it's in good working order, since you'll be trusting your life to it. We also learned today that when you have your gear laid out, you should always have somebody keep an eye on it...even though our instructor told us not to have a "gear watch," one of the other classes decided to "teach us a lesson" and throw all our stuff in the pool!

  • Next, everybody suits up, we run through poolside checks to make sure everybody's gear is on correctly, and then we use one of several methods to enter the water (roll in, step in, roll in backwards, etc.). As with everything in pool week (and with diving in general), you have to get permission from and inform the Dive Supervisor, or "dive supe," so there's a litany of sorts that you repeat with your buddy: "Dive Supe! Request permission to enter the water!" (Enter the water) "Look left! Look right! Look down! Look to the horizon! 1, 2, 3, roll!" On "roll" (or "step" or whatever) you roll/step/etc. into the water. Of course, yesterday, I found out the hard way that it helps to be right on the edge of the water...we yelled "1, 2, 3, roll!" and I didn't go anywhere...I had to rock myself back and forth to get the tanks off the ground. Just trying to entertain my classmates...

  • One of the seemingly easy but pretty hard parts of Pool Week comes next: the IWPs, or "In-Water Procedures/Proficiency." This involves you and your dive buddy checking each others' straps and air, giving an OK to the dive supe, and then treading water for a minute. Sounds easy, right? Well, try doing it with 40 pounds strapped to your back! Admittedly, the 40 pounds is lighter when bouyed up by the water (good ole' Archimedes' principle!) and you have fins on, but it's easy to freak out and kick little kicks rather than big, long kicks (which not only keep you up better but also tire you out slower). On top of this, I feel bad because my dive buddy, Greg (a cool guy from the Naval Academy, who is getting married back in his hometown in Illinois in a few months) had problems with IWPs, exacerbated by my actions (I accidentally pulled him down with his straps once, and another time I couldn't spit out the report to the dive supe correctly). Greg ended up having to leave today, and we're all going to miss him...although I imagine that he's also feeling relieved and happy to get some rest before starting Nuclear Power School. I almost got kicked out of Dive School early on myself, because I had trouble with the "ditch and don" procedure in which one throws a snorkel and mask to the bottom of the pool, dives down, retreives and clears them, and then reaches the surface...there was definitely a point where I felt like quitting. I just wish I could have done more to help out Greg.

  • Anyhow, after the IWPs, one kicks to the shallow end and waits for the dreaded "Problem Solving" portion. Now, to nerds like me, "problem solving" connotes fun math puzzles about who set next to who at dinner and which person is wearing yellow, or maybe the curriculum developer in me (yeah, Bermuda project!) thinks of essential cognitive skills learned through programming. So, what does "problem solving" mean here? Basically, you swim around on the bottom of the pool, and people "impose problems" on, say, batting away your regulator (i.e. what you breathe through), stealing your mask, thrashing you around, turning off your air, tying your hoses in knots, trying to take away your tanks, and basically leaving you on the bottom feeling like a million bucks. The official name for these problem-imposers is, appropriately, "imposers," but we know them colloquially as "sharks," since this is a bit like a no-biting shark attack. After the attack, your job is to get your air back on, get your gear squared away, and give the appropriate checks to the safety diver. There are definitely some fearful moments, but there's always someone close by with air in case you need it, and it's suprising how you can keep your cool if you know what you're doing. The instructors also make it fun: on my first "light" hit, I thought I did everything correctly but the safety diver chided me on his "slate" (basically an underwater whiteboard that you can write on with a grease pencil--pretty cool), "YOU CHECKED YOUR AIR TWICE BUT IT STILL ISN'T ALL THE WAY ON. USE YOUR MAN HANDS!!!!" Another time, I got my tanks snatched away from me by Chief Warrant Officer Buchanan during a "buddy hit", and when my buddy and I finished, they took us over to the pool wall, where they had written "CORNER OF DEATH!" and had us add a tally to a very long list of "unsat" (i.e. unsatisfactory, or you did something wrong--say, oh, I don't know, let them snatch away your tanks) while there was only one tick mark under "sat." In any case, both during and after the sharking, it's pretty fun. Fun and scary--kind of like a good roller coaster.

Anyhow, that's a quick update from Florida...I'll try to write more here soon.

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