There is nothing like the sound of a military cadence call sung by military personnel while running or marching. The best alarm clock in the military is the sound of an infantry unit singing “Hail O’ Hail O’ Infantry”. This will for sure send chills down the spine of any service member or veteran. You will hear them from a far, singing out with pride, no matter where or when. The military cadence is something each member takes pride in; it is their way of saying, “I am here. We will be loud. You will know our song. You will feel our hearts beat with each cadence call. You will know who we are, from near and far.”
History of the Military Cadence
The history of the military cadence goes back to the Revolutionary War. At that time, it was known as close-order drill. This was when the drummer or leader would call out for the loading sequence of firing the musket. The cadence is sung with no use of instruments and with a rhythm of a military march.
Cadences differ from unit to unit and branch to branch. Many cadences have what is known as call and response, in which one soldier known as the cadence caller initiates a line and the remaining soldiers complete or repeat the line.
The cadence call is used on day one of boot camp. This instills a sense of teamwork and cohesiveness among-st the members of the platoon or company. The cadence call will move to the beat and rhythm of normal speed and may go to quick or double time in either a running or marching formation. The members of the unit must all move in step while maintaining the correct beat and cadence.
The actual word cadence originates from work songs that applied the number of steps a marcher or runner took per minute. Throughout history, the cadence has been a part of many units’ identity, all thanks to the soldier who created it: Willie Duckworth.
The Purpose of the Military Cadence
The main purpose of the cadence is to teach teamwork. The whole unit must stay in unison while keeping up with the cadence. This also helps soldiers with breathing and cardio. With the running cadence, many units move slower runners to the front of the march to improve their cardio.
The cadence has always been a big part of a unit’s identity, in every military branch. The Army has more cadences related to battle, the Air Force has more related to planes, and the Navy cadences are more related to ships and planes. The Coast Guard’s identity has always been rooted in rescue operations, and their cadences reflect that identity. Each unit will have some specific cadences, such as one for the Army Airborne, the Army Cavalry, and Ranger units. The Marines have always stood out with their cadences, and will actually send select Marines or boot camp instructors to cadence calling school.
Running and Marching
There are different cadences for running and marching, Since they require a different pace, they have a different rhythm and beat. There are very few cadences that can be for both running and marching.
An important part of cadences are the cadence callers themselves. They don’t have to have a voice like Brittney Spears or Kenny Chesney, but they must be clear, loud, and proud!
Best of the Best
These are some of my favorite cadences:
“Hail O’ Hail O’ Infantry”
“The Army Marching Song”
“Hey, Hey Captain Jack”
“Why I Want to Be a Marine”
“Hey Air Force”
“Freedom’s Not Free”
The minute you attend boot camp, no matter what branch you join, the military cadence becomes part of your lineage. After you retire or end your enlistment, there will still be times when you will sing the songs of the cadence caller. When you run by yourself, you will sing the songs you sung so loud and proud. The cadences will forever be part of your military history. When you roll down the road in that jeep, don’t be afraid to sing out, “Hail O’ hail O’ infantry, Queen of Battle. Follow me!”