JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. –
The 24-hour clock encompasses the entire day, so too, does the efforts of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.
The military operates at all hours of the day and night, so it uses a 24-hour clock, commonly referred to as military time, to avoid confusion between a.m. and p.m. hours.
This method of time-keeping can be traced back to the Navy during World War I as all allied armies began using it starting with the United Kingdom. To this day, the Department of the Navy maintains the United States official time, with the Master Clock facility at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
As military time, or 'real time,' is not commonly used among United Sates civilians, it is no wonder why new service members don't necessarily comprehend it. I often find myself mixing up times for that very reason.
"Not too long ago, I missed a meeting because I misread the time sent in an email," said Airman 1st Class Zach Wodaege, 87th Air Base Wing Judge Advocate military justice paralegal, hailing from Maple Valley, Wash. "I feel as though it is a common mistake because military time doesn't come naturally to everyone. I certainly feel more comfortable with the system as I have grown in my service."
Many people who have never served in the military probably will never learn the simplicity of military time, only hearing it referenced in popular culture like war movies or military shows like Zero Dark Thirty.
The following is a chart to help clarify any questions our readers may have about military time.
12:00 AM -- 0000 hrs
1:00 AM -- 0100 hrs
2:00 AM -- 0200 hrs
3:00 AM -- 0300 hrs
4:00 AM -- 0400 hrs
5:00 AM -- 0500 hrs
6:00 AM -- 0600 hrs
7:00 AM -- 0700 hrs
8:00 AM -- 0800 hrs
9:00 AM -- 0900 hrs
10:00 AM -- 1000 hrs
11:00 AM -- 1100 hrs
12:00 PM -- 1200 hrs
1:00 PM -- 1300 hrs
2:00 PM -- 1400 hrs
3:00 PM -- 1500 hrs
4:00 PM -- 1600 hrs
5:00 PM -- 1700 hrs
6:00 PM -- 1800 hrs
7:00 PM -- 1900 hrs
8:00 PM -- 2000 hrs
9:00 PM -- 2100 hrs
10:00 PM -- 2200 hrs
11:00 PM -- 2300 hrs
This chart shows how simple military time can be and why it reduces confusion int the military's around-the-clock operations.
Another tricky aspect of military time is referred to as 'Zulu time.' When it comes to operational matters, the military must often coordinate with bases and personnel located in other time zones. To avoid confusion in these matters, the military uses the time in Greenwich, England, which is commonly called Greenwich Mean Time. However, the U.S. Military refers to this time zone as Zulu time. The 'zulu' comes from the fact that each time zone is given a letter designation, 'z' being the 24th. I often wonder how many active duty service members actually realize were that term comes from.
At this point I think I may be an expert on the subject of military time. After reading this commentary, I hope you feel the same way.
(Some information used in this article was taken from Rod Powers, military historian)