"Jody calls," or simply "jodies," as those little songs soldiers often sing as they march or double-time in formation are called, are about as basic to soldiering as rifles and shower shoes.

They're a No. 1 factor in motivating soldiers. There are few better ways to build motivation and esprit de corps.

Ironically, the same Army that teaches soldiers how to do even the most basic things like shining boots and arranging hangers in a wall locker leaves them to their own devices when learning cadence calls. You either have the knack or you don't.

Jodies have been bursting in soldiers' hearts for more than 50 years. As the story goes, a formation of exhausted troops was returning to its barracks at Fort Slocum, N.Y., in May 1944 when a rhythmic chant arose from the columns.

Pvt. Willie Duck-worth, a black soldier on detached service with Fort Slocum's Provisional Training Center, sang out the first-ever rendition of "Sound-off," "Sound-off; 1-2; Sound-off; 3-4; Count cadence; 1-2-3-4; 1-2 -- 3-4." Other soldiers in the formation joined in and their dragging feet picked up momentum.

At a time when black soldiers' achievements were just being acknowledged by many in the Army, the "Duckworth Chant," as Duckworth's cadence came to be called, got notice. Col. Bernard Lentz, Fort Slocum's commander, recognized it as a way to keep his soldiers in step while boosting unit pride and camaraderie.

Duckworth's Chant built on a musical tradition that began just after the Revolutionary War. Back then, American marching troops took special pleasure in singing "Yankee Doodle" -- the song the British had used to taunt them -- back to the defeated Redcoats.

Through the years, other military marching songs arose. During the Civil War, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" sent blood pumping through Yankee and Rebel veins.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, "Over There" and "The Caisson Song" were popular among marching troops. The official Army song, "The Army Goes Rolling Along," even urges soldiers to "count off the cadence loud and strong."

But Duckworth changed the whole way the Army looked -- and continues to look -- at cadence calls. Soon soldiers were making up their own cadences, personalizing them to include ditties about their own units and soldiers.

These spirited cadence calls teach soldiers about cohesion and team building, and pass on the history and traditions of the Army. Nobody seems to know for sure when the Duckworth Chant became known as the jody call. In fact, nobody's even sure who "Jody" is. In the many cadence calls that disparage Jody's name, Jody is the guy back home, trying to court a soldier's wife or girlfriend or sister. And as more women joined the ranks, Jody also came to represent the woman out to seduce a husband or boyfriend. In either case, Jody is a civilian enjoying the comforts of home while the soldier sweats it out in the field or overseas. And soldiers love to console themselves by singing about Jody: "Ain't no use in going home; Jody's got your girl and gone. Ain't no use in feeling blue; Jody's got your sister, too. Ain't no use in lookin' back; Jody's got your Cadillac..."

When soldiers aren't singing about Jody, they love to sing about the trials and tribulations of Army life. Among the most popular ones is: "Momma, momma, can't you see? Look what the Army's done to me. ... They took away my faded jeans; Now I'm wearing Army green. They took away my gin and rum; Now I'm up before the sun..."

Another jody that talks about the "good old" civilian days goes: "Whoa-whoa, whoa, whoa. ... I used to have the high school queen; Now I've got my M-16. I used to drive a Chevrolet; Now I'm running every day..." Then there's the one, "They say that in the Army, the pay is mighty fine. They give you a hundred dollars, and take back 99. Oh Lord, I want to go, but they won't let me go, ho-o-o--ome."

Drill instructors say that just about any jody is more motivational than the basic eight-count cadence call referred to in Field Manual 22-5. But some jodies celebrate soldiers' pride about their service and accomplishments.

"C-130 rollin' down the strip. Airborne daddy gonna take a little trip..." lauds the glory of the airborne. Another salutes those soldiers who take on the Army's toughest challenges: "I wanna be an airborne ranger; I wanna live a life of danger..."

While many jodies have remained intact through the decades, some things have changed. Jodies have been altered to denounce whatever adversary the United States may be facing at the time: North Korea during the Korean War, the Viet Cong, the ayatollah.

And even more importantly, the vulgar and sexist language that made up many early jodies became a no-no after the mid-1980s. Gills agrees that off-color jodies can be more divisive than unifying. And while there's no Army field manual that specifically forbids them, suggestive jodies have become an almost universal taboo.

Those old, dirty cadences haven't been thrown away. They've only been cleaned up to reflect the values and way of life the Army promotes today.

In the short term, jodies help establish a sense of rhythm that gets soldiers in step and keeps them in step. In the long term, they help indoctrinate soldiers into the Army way of life. They teach soldiers about cohesion and team building, and pass on the history and traditions of the Army.

Today's jodies -- some uttered for almost 50 years and others cleaned-up versions of old favorites -- continue to drive soldiers to achieve what some thought they never could.

Many a soldier say a jody pushed them forward when they felt ready to quit during a march or a formation run. Few jodies are as effective in that regard as the favorite: "One mile, no sweat. Two miles, better yet. Three miles, think about it. Four miles, thought about it. Five miles, feeling good like I should..."

Jodies give you something to put your mind to; something to distract you while you're pushing yourself to reach new limits.


Early one morning in the pouring rain,
First Sergeant said it was time for pain,
grab your ruck and follow me!
Its time to do some PT.
We jogged nine miles and we ran three,
The First Sergeants yelling follow me!
Then we walked two miles and ran eight!
Airborne PT sure is great!


I used to be an Airborne man,
They dropped me from a plane in Vietnam.
Lock and load your M16,
Grab your gear and follow me!

Take the safety off your gun,
Lets go have some combat fun.
Find some enemies, roamin'' around,
Take your aim and mow 'em down.


I saw an old lady running down the street
Had a chute on her back, jump boots on her feet
Said, "Hey old lady, where you goin' to?"
She said, "US Army Airborne School"
Whatcha gonna do when you get there?
Jump from a plane and fall through the air
I said, "Hey old lady, ain't you been told?
Airborne School's for the brave and the bold."
She said, "Hey, now soldier, don't be a fool,
I'm an instructor at Airborne School!"


Everywhere we go - oh
Everywhere we go - oh
People wanna know - oh
Who we are
Where we come from
So we tell them
We are Bravo
Mighty Mighty Bravo
Rough - n - tough Bravo
Straight shooting Bravo
Better than Alpha
Awful awful Alpha
Better than Charlie
Chicken chicken Charlie
Better than Delta
Dumb-dumb Delta
Better than Echo
Icky icky Echo
We are Bravo
Mighty mighty Bravo

Here we go again
Same old stuff again
Marching down the avenue
Few more days and we'll be through
I won't have to look at you
So, I'll be glad and so will you


C-130 Rolling down the strip.
Airborne daddy on a one-way trip.
Mission unspoken, destination unknown.
They don't even know if they'll ever come home.
Stand up hook up, shuffle to the door.
Jump right out and count to four.
If my main don't open wide.
I've got a reserve right by my side.
If that one don't fail me too.
Look out ground, I'm a coming through
I'll hit the ground before you do!
Pin my medals upon my chest,
and bury me in the leaning rest.
When I get to heaven.
St. Peter's gonna say.
How'd you earn your livin?
How'd you earn your pay?
And I will reply with a little bit of anger:
Earned my pay as an Airborne soldier

C-130 rollin down the strip,
Airborne daddy gonna take a little trip.
Stand up, buckle up, shuffle to the door,
Jump right out and count to four.
If my chute don't open wide,
I'll be splattered on the countryside.
If my chute don't open wide,
I got another one by my side.
If that chute don't open neither,
I'll say hi to ol' St. Peter.
If I die on the ol' drop zone,
Pack me up and ship me home.
Bury me in the leanin' rest,
Tell my folks I did my best.


Coon skin and alligator hide
Make a pair of jump boots just the right size
Shine 'em up, lace 'em up, put 'em on your feet
A good pair of jump boots can't be beat

Birdie, birdie in the sky
Dropped some whitewash in my eye
Ain't no sissy, I won't cry
I'm just glad that cows don't fly


Let the four winds blow
Let 'em blow let 'em blow
From the east to the west
The Army Airborne is the best
Standing tall and looking good
Ought to march in Hollywood
Lift your head and hold it high
3rd Platoon is marching by
Close your eyes and hang your head
We are marching by the dead
Look to your right and whad'ya see?
A whole bunch of legs looking at me
Dress it right and cover down
Forty inches all around
Nine to the front, six to the rear
That's the way we do it here

If you have know an Army Airborne cadence that you would like to see listed on this page, please contact WEBMASTER

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