Why we should sing a loud service song

  • Published
  • By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center

The playing of The U.S. Air Force song is one of the few moments we have to sing out with gusto for the service. In basic training, we sang loud in cadence, not only to keep in step but with a feeling of teamwork that the Airman next to us bellowed out "Mama, Mama, Can't You See" or "Everywhere We Go." A squeaky or off-key voice was of little attention. The mindset was to build confidence, so the louder we sounded off in rhythm, the better the formation looked.

Then came those years in service, where everyone but the gifted person they always call to sing the National Anthem seems to fizzle, not wanting to stand out at events where the invitation goes out to sing, "OFF WE GO INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER" but instead the room fills with "off we go into the wild blue yonder."

Eighty years ago this July (1939), Robert Crawford submitted that initial verse, which all Airmen memorize. It was his entry in a contest to find an Army Air Corps song. If he were here on this anniversary, he'd probably want to hear the words sung louder than the accompanying instruments.

Maybe I watched Irving Berlin's movie "Holiday Inn" one too many times, but I have this romantic notion of being in the room with those troops as they belt out, "WE'LL FOLLOW THE OLD MAN." I want to sing the song with that type of crowd. I want to feel that amount of vibration build up from my guts, and a smile on my face from shouting out "AT 'EM BOYS, GIVE 'ER THE GUN!" I only worry that the entire room will look at me like I'm unbalanced (kidding).

Chief Master Sgt. Steven Durrance, the current Commandant of the U.S. Air Force's largest enlisted professional military education center, said that he and his staff impart lessons in how leaders set standards. The U.S. Air Force song is one topic he speaks about during his commandant time with NCO Academy and Airman Leadership School students.

"As a leader, I must take every opportunity to highlight our rich traditions, values, and history," Durrance said. "Those words carry weight, and they are for each generation to remember the sacrifices of fallen heroes, to understand how the song supports today's Air Force and guides us in our resiliency, how that nothing will stop us."

So training and education provide the understanding, but many of us have been to events with the shared feeling not to sing too loud in the audience. Can an energetic song be good for us?

Camaraderie builds from singing together.

There's a collective positive energy that bonds baseball fans at games across America who stand and stretch during the seventh inning as well as sing loudly, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game!"

Singing lifts our spirits.

Who has ever let out a primal scream during a tense moment and felt a ton of stress melt away? We get similar results when we sing in the car or the shower or at religious services.

Loud singing keeps us fit.

Maybe we should sing the song like in basic training, before our physical fitness; after all, several studies reported that singing gives us stronger hearts and lungs, it boosts our immune systems, improves posture, and burns calories comparable to walking and yoga.

So there's our collective impasse. Sounding out The U.S. Air Force song in opposition to mumbling, and it will be great for all of us in many ways. But we need the Airman next to us to raise their volume too. I'm considering being that guy you'll hear above everyone else, spouting out at the next event — OFF WITH ONE HELLUVA ROAR!