04 March 2011

Mangled Mottoes and Other Tongue-Twisters

In many units, soldiers sound off with a variation of their organization's motto when saluting each other. Currently in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT), the standard salutation is, "Red Bulls!" The person returning the salute replies with "Attack!"--an echo of the 34th Infantry Division motto, which is "Attack! Attack! Attack!"

The 2-34th BCT command sergeant major says that it's "Red Bulls," because the unit is a team. "'Red Bull' is an energy drink," he says.

Sometimes--but never with the sergeant major--soldiers slip some humor into their salutes with a little intentional tripping of the tongue. Despite the "we're not an energy drink" sentiment, for example, one occasionally overhears variations such as:
  • "Red Bull ..." / "and vodka!"
In keeping with Iowa's agricultural roots, a buddy of mine has perfected replying with an "Attack!" that sounds as if it were spoken by some sort of mutant chicken. When, I'm not snickering like a school boy at his antics, I've come to regard his "attack / chicken" combo as a potential comment on the duality of man, sort of like simultaneously wearing a peace symbol on your body armor and writing "Born to Kill" on your steel pot helmet.

But, hey, that's just me.

Such pranks within the ranks extend to battalion-level mottoes, as well. During the 2-34th BCT's Fall 2010 rotation at National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., for example, members of the 334th Brigade Support Battalion were known to reverse the order of their unit's sound-off: "Support the attack" became "attack the support. It seemed to be an inside joke among logisticians, a collective comment on their combative customers.

As one canny Red Bull Rising commenter has already noted, some unit mottoes lend themselves more to creative mis-interpretations than others. The "when ready" motto of the 2-34th BCT's 194th Field Artillery, according to a couple of Red Bull red legs, is occasionally delivered as "when (you're) ready" or "when (we're good and) ready."



  1. Good stuff. As I try to tell "normal folks" sometimes we had to make our own fun.
    When we few from Calif were attached to the Red Bulls for SFOR 14, we were supposed to say that salute motto stuff. I never did. I'd just salute and say: "good morning sir" and keep going.
    I heard some of our CA folks do it with some of the CA officers and their response was: "Kill, kill, kill."

    In Iraq, I was with Co B- Bull Dogs. We of course changed it to "BULL FROGS....ribbitt"

  2. along these lines- my current unit, the 42nd Infantry Div AKA the "rainbow division"... the motto is "never forget" (the Div lost about half its troops in ww1, so the patch was also cut in half, and we say "never forget" in memory of the fallen half of the division.

    the problem is that when we are called to attention in formation, we ALWAYS forget to yell "Never forget!".
    Seriously we are batting like .150 on the "never forget!" motto. not good. not good at all

  3. @ Benjamin:

    The HHC, 2nd BCT, 34th Inf. Div. sound-off when called to attention is, embarrassingly to some, "second to none!" This leads some wags in the back to observe, "well, technically, we ARE second to the 1st BCT. That's how numbers work."

    Not to mil-geek out here, but I now regret not including the World War I connections between one of the Red Bull battalions and the 42nd Infantry "Rainbow" Division in my earlier "Quest for the Crests, Part 2" (http://www.redbullrising.com/2011/02/quest-for-crests-part-ii.html)

    The rainbow appears on the 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment coat-of-arms, given its past affiliations with 42nd Inf. Div. In a little regimental trivia that friends of the 1/168th are never allowed to forget, the unit fought with not one but two generals MacArthur.

    Douglas MacArthur is often credited with naming the 42nd Division, observing that the National Guard division would stretch like a rainbow across soldiers from 26 different states. He was a major at the time, by the way. Who knew that staff guys wielded such influence?

    Hee's an excerpt of an article (http://www.34infdiv.org/press/gx81-guardlegacy.pdf) that further makes the Rainbow connections:

    The 168th Infantry was the first Iowa National Guard unit sent to France. Attached to the 42nd “Rainbow” Division, the 168th participated in several actions. In particular, there was the Champagne-Marne Campaign, July 15–18, 1918. This campaign was a desperate effort by the Germans to mount an offensive with hopes of cutting between the French and British forces, which hopefully would result in a victorious end to the war. The 42nd Division, along with other American units, proved vital in thwarting this German attack. [...]

    Chief of Staff of the 42nd Division Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur commented of the 168th, “Is it any wonder that my father was proud of this regiment?” During their service in the Philippines, the 168th, then designated the 51st Iowa, was under the command of MacArthur’s father, Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur Jr.

    (Excerpt ends.)

  4. As you can expect, I have tried a few variations for the 2BCT motto, my personal variation is trying to find the right inflection that makes it sound correct. Too little emphasis and it sounds like you’re phoning it in, too much and you sound like a psychopath. During the last Annual Training we had, some poor Private correctly greeted me with “Red Bulls”, and I responded with an “ATTACK!!!!!!” like you would have expected from a freshly shaven PVT Pyle in Full Metal Jacket showing his war face. Poor kid nearly peed himself. Since then, I either use “We Maintain” the response that has been the Squadron’s response since I was first an LT, or “Not in the Face”. Both are usually lost of the people that are not paying attention.

  5. @ Saber2th: I 'bout wet myself from giggling about your stories of salutations! Glad to see you're maintaining your sense of humor!


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