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Special Forces Legend, “Iron Mike” Dies

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Special Forces Legend, “Iron Mike” Dies

By Debbie Gregory

Last month, the Army lost a special ops legend.

Maj. Gen. Michael D. Healy, 91, spent 35 years serving in the military, completing tours in Korea and Vietnam. Healy began his career with parachute training followed by attendance at a number of Army Colleges, including Ranger School.

Maj. Gen. Healy earned the nickname “Iron Mike” while serving as a young officer leading Army Rangers on combat patrols deep behind enemy lines in Korea in the early 1950s. The nickname, which stuck with him throughout his life, was a testament to his stamina and ability to take heavy loads, as well as helping others with their loads.

The Chicago native enlisted in the Army at the age of 19.

He entered the Korean War as a Company Commander with the Airborne Rangers, which at the time was a newly formed unit of the Army. Most of his career was spent in Vietnam, where he served five and a half tours, leading the 5th Special Forces group for almost 20 months, and earning him his first Distinguished Service Medal.

When he retired in 1981, Maj. Gen. Healy was the nation’s most senior Special Forces soldier.

Iron Mike’s legend made it to the big screen as the inspiration for John Wayne’s character, “Col. Iron Mike Kirby,” in the 1968 film “The Green Berets.”

Maj. Gen. Healy’s legacy would not be forgotten in the close-knit Special Forces community, according to Retired Sgt. 1st Class Cliff Newman, executive director of the Special Forces Association.

“He was one of the first Americans to go into Vietnam and one of the last to leave,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Healy was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, two Silver Star Medals, a Legion of Merit with three oak-leaf clusters, a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star Medal with valor device, an Air Medal with Valor device, a Navy Commendation Medal with valor device and two Purple Heart Medals. He is also a member of the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.

In 2016, Maj. Gen. Healy was inducted as a Distingished Member of the Special Forces Regiment. He had a special bond with the men he lead, and was a beloved hero of the Green Berets. He always credited his success to the men he lead.

In an interview, Maj. Gen. Healy said: “I would like to walk in the back gate at Fort Sheridan like I first did and say, ‘Yes, sir, I’ll go.’ But today, I’m in civilian clothes. My uniform is packed away.”

Maj. Gen. Healy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his mentor, the late Gen. Creighton Abrams.

 

 

Theories of the Origins of the Army’s Battle Cry “Hooah”

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By Debbie Gregory.

The battle cry “hooah!” (not to be confused by the Marine Corps’ “OOHRAH”) is used by soldiers the U.S. Army. Many have questioned the origin of the term.

One version said that Seminole chief Coacoochee toasted officers of the regiment with a loud “Hough!”, apparently a corruption of “How d’ye do!”

“I don’t know how exactly to spell it, but I know what it means,” said former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan. “It means we have broken the mold. We are battle focused. Hooah says — ‘Look at me. I’m a warrior. I’m ready. Sergeants trained me to standard.’”

Other rumored origins include:

  • During World War II, soldiers would reply to orders from their commanding officers with “HUA,” an acronym for “heard, understood, acknowledged.” Some say that HUA really stands for “head up ass,” or HOOA, for “head out of ass.”
  • On D-Day, 1944, on Omaha Beach, General Cota, the 29th Division Assistant Division Commander asked a group of Rangers from the 2nd Ranger Battalion, “Where’s your commanding officer?” They pointed him out and said, “Down there, sir.” General Cota reportedly followed their direction and, on his way down the beach, said, “Lead the way, Rangers!” The Rangers from 2nd Bat reportedly said, “WHO, US?” General Cota thought he heard them say “HOOAH!” He was so impressed with their cool and calm demeanor, not to mention their cool term, hooah, he decided to make it a household name.
  • American soldiers using Vietnamese and Vietnamese-French expressions interchangeably with English during the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese word for “yes,” which is pronounced “u-ah” is easily changed to “hooah.”

Although no one is really sure where and when the term originated, or even how to spell it, the word is still an expression of high morale, strength, and confidence. And, when powered by an overwhelmingly proud, and usually loud, tone of voice, “hooah / hooyah / oohrah” no matter how it is spelled, makes a statement.

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