Who was that man calling cadence?

Commentary by SFC Carl Hubby, Public Affairs Office staff writer

I hate running in formations.

I’m a long-distance runner who likes to change directions and pace as the urge strikes me.

Running is great when I’m in the mood, but it’s hard to be in the mood when the sun hasn’t risen yet.

So I was overwhelmed to be standing in a formation getting ready to run two miles at 6:30 a.m. last Friday.

Running in a formation is seldom fun for me. I either trip on the heels of the soldier in front of me, or the soldier behind me stomps on mine. I stay bored since the pace is slower than I like.

So I must try to remain alert, be careful and hope that it’ll be over soon. I expected another dull run that day.

But I was in for a surprise. Running in this formation turned out to be fun for me.
What made the run enjoyable was the appearance of a new soldier to our formation, a soldier who did things differently.

Soon after we started, the soldier began running around the entire formation, circling it as we ran. He was trying to get soldiers motivated to sing cadence louder. As he passed the troops, he would turn his head and cup his hand around his ears. Soldiers would sing louder as he approached, but once he was out of hearing range, they would quiet down again.

Then the soldier, Brig. Gen. (P.) James W. Wurman, started calling cadence. Generals don’t know to call cadence, do they? How could they learn? They were never drill sergeants.

But Wurman did. Most of us looked at each other in amazement. But what was stranger still was that he was good at it. Not fair. Not mediocre. Not because he was the deputy commanding general. He was good.

It wasn’t long before everyone around me was yelling out the words. Not because they were required to, but because it was fun, And they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Wurman challenged the runners to see how loudly they could sing. He got soldiers motivated, one group at a time, until it seemed each group was yelling louder than the last. Soldiers were competing in such groups as “everyone E-7 and above,” and by age, “All you young soldiers.” Each group tried to outperform the other. And it was fun.

The two miles were covered quicker than I would have expected. Almost too soon. I don’t think anyone fell behind or dropped out, ,and that was a first for us. The troops were motivated so much we even ran some springs after the two-mile run. And everybody looked like they were really trying to give it their all.

We formed back up after the sprint. Wurman addressed us and told us that we did great on the run and that if we kept it up, we might live to be as old as him. His humor was infectious and we laughed. He said he’d be back to run with us again Friday. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

He has charisma. He made it fun.

Ranger Graduating Class of 1954

Source: Archives of James Wurman, Jr.