This piece was written as a supplement to the AMC DVD_TV Enhanced Version of Scent of a Woman, which aired in March 2007.
Scent of a Woman and the History of the "Hoo-ah!"
“Hoo-ah” is an all-purpose interjection, acknowledgment and battle cry that started in the Army but later spread into the Air Force and Navy. The Marines have their own version — “Ooh-rah.” Until Scent of a Woman, the phrase was hardly ever heard except on military bases or on the battlefield.
In military usage, "Hoo-ah" can mean almost anything except "no." It can mean "Nice to meet you," “Affirmative,” "Uh-huh," "Amen," “Let's go!” “Congratulations!” and "Thank you.” As retired Brigadier General Creighton Abrams, director of the Army Historical Foundation, explained, “It all started out as kind of an exclamation point, and that was just fine. Then it became something almost perfunctory, as in saying, ‘Hoo-ah’ instead of saying goodbye. Unfortunately, it’s become a bit much.”
The origin of the expression is unknown, but has given rise to many theories. One is that it was a toast given by a Seminole chief at a banquet after truce talks during the Indian wars of the 1840s. The Department of Defense posits that it might be an abbreviation of the acronym HUA, for “heard, understood and acknowledged.” Some have suggested it may come from the Army adage “Hurry up and wait.” The author of a book of military expressions entitled Swear Like a Trooper suggests it may be derived from the British “Huzzah!” of the 1700s.
"History of the Hoo-ah!," Los Angeles Times, 4/15/03