The Depot

Army Cadences for Marching and Running

Army soldiers in PT gear running in formation

A cadence is defined as an inflection of the voice, but it can also be a rhythm or a beat. An Army cadence is actually both; an inflection of the voice by the individual leading the cadence that helps those who are running or marching in formation keep a steady tempo or rhythm as they march or run.

Just about every veteran has their favorite Army cadence to march or run to. We surveyed our military veterans here at USAMM and got their input on their favorite Army cadence.

Favorite Army Cadence (marching)

A Yellow Bird
A yellow bird,
with a yellow bill.
He landed on
my window sill.
I coaxed him in.
with a piece of bread,
and then I kissed
his little head! (Formation stomps foot in unison)
I called the doctor,
and the doctor said,
my dear good man,
this bird is dead.

Of course, there are variations to this Army cadence one which includes exacting some violence on the little bird and announcing the violent act with some profanity, but Yellow Bird ranked highly in our unofficial veteran Army cadence poll. This Army cadence is popular with young and old veterans alike.

They Say that In the Army
They say that in the Army, the chow is mighty fine
A chicken jumped off the table and started marking time.
Oh, Lord I wanna go,
But they won’t let me go (the formation ends this line with “home,”
stretched out over eight paces, and “Hey” on the right foot to end the refrain).
They say that in the Army, the pay is mighty fine
They give you a hundred dollars and take back ninety-nine.
They say that in the Army, the coffee’s mighty fine
It looks like muddy water, and tastes like turpentine.
They say that in the Army, the biscuits are mighty fine
One rolled off the table and killed a friend of mine.
They say that in the Army, the pancakes are mighty fine
You can try to chew them, but you’re only wasting time.
They say that in the Army, the mail is so great
Today I got a letter dated 1948.
They say that in the Army, the hours are just right
Start early in the morning and work on through the night.
They say that in the army, the tents are waterproof
You wake up in the morning and you’re floating on the roof. 

In our USAMM veteran survey, all Army veterans knew this Army cadence and offered their own versions, many modified based on their military occupation and where they were trained and stationed. It was without a doubt the most popular marching Army cadence for all the Army veterans. Many said it was the first Army cadence they learned and others noted that the mention of going home in the refrain made them melancholy, but at the same time it made them stronger; like they could endure anything since they were with their fellow soldiers.

Favorite Army Cadence (running)

As for running, we got a lot of responses from our USAMM veterans who offered their favorite Army cadences for running. We had to shorten the list, a lot, but here were the consist favorite Army cadences for running.

Army soldiers in black PT gear running in formation

Two Old Ladies
Two old ladies were lying in bed,
One turned over to the other and said.
I wanna be an Airborne Ranger!
Live that life of blood and danger.
Airborne Ranger.
Blood and danger.
Two old ladies were lying in bed.
One turned over to the other and said.
I wanna be a paramedic.
Pump that funky anesthetic.
I wanna be a mountain climber.
Climb those mountains higher and higher.
Mountain climber.
Higher and higher.
I wanna be a scuba diver.
Jump right in that muddy water.
Scuba diver.
Muddy water.

This was also a fan favorite. What can you say? We’d love to meet the two legendary old ladies who want to be Rangers. Who wouldn’t want to meet two adventurous grandmas?

No Sweat
One mile,
No Sweat.
Two miles,
Better yet.
Three miles,
Gotta run.
Four miles,
Just for fun.
Come on. Let’s go!
We can go,
Through the snow.
We can run,
To the sun.
We train,
In the rain.
Can you be,
Like me?

Again, every Army cadence had variations because every veteran served during different periods. In some cases, what was deemed as inappropriate language was removed from an Army cadence or two, and in other cases the changes to an Army cadence modernized the Army cadence to better connect with younger soldiers.

Other great Army cadences mentioned were the Airborne cadence (“C-130 rolling down the strip…”), Momma, momma can’t you see, and Marching on by, just to name a few.

An Army cadence is something that sticks with an Army veteran and it enables them to remember the esprit de corps and camaraderie of serving in the Army.

Comments on this post ( 1 )

  • Mar 20, 2023

    Publish more Cadences….we use them while we drill at the Indiana Guard Reserve..Thanks.

    — Reba Mahaffey

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