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Military Time – How It Works, And Who Uses It

Military Time (US)

History of Military Time 

The history of military time can be dated back to the Early Egyptians in the 11th Dynasty. The first appearance of a 24-hour clock was found on a coffin lid which is famously known as the Diagonal Star Table. The Egyptians synchronized the time system with certain patterns of constellations that passed through the sky at night. This system was defined by the different amounts of light intensity that was present during the day and season. The constellation patterns would eventually develop into a year with 360 days.

As world wars progressed, there were major improvements from every country in strategy and communication. One of these improvements being the adaptation of the 24 hour clock because the 12 hour clock posed too much room for error. The United States Navy adopted the 24-hour system in 1920 and later by the Army in 1942 and until today Navy Seals set their watches to military time.

What is Military Time? How Does it Work?

Military time is a way to tell time using 24 hours. The day starts at 0 hours and ends at 24 hours. In the United States, we use a 12-hour clock. The 12-hour clock runs from 1:00 A.M. to 12 noon and then from 1:00 P.M. to 12 midnight.

Just like a 12-hour digital clock, military time is displayed in four digits. The first two digits represent the hour and the last two digits represent the minutes. 0000 (pronounced “zero-hundred”) is midnight, and 1200 (pronounced “twelve-hundred”) is noon. Anything between 0001 and 1159 is basically “A.M.” time. For example, 0100 (pronounced “zero, one-hundred”) converts into 1 A.M. and 0730 (pronounced “zero, seven-thirty”) converts into 7:30 a.m. Anything between 1201 and 2359 is basically “P.M.” time. Therefore, 1300 (pronounced “thirteen-hundred”) converts into 1 P.M. and 1400 converts into 2 P.M. and so on.

Soldiers in time of war

Who Uses Military Time and When?

Military time is used because it avoids the confusion between A.M. (morning hours) and P.M. (evening hours). We are all guilty of accidentally setting our alarm for 6:00 P.M. Instead of 6:00 A.M., causing us to be late to important events. With military time, we have no confusion because the numbers never repeat themselves. Military time is most commonly used by the military, government, public transportation, hospitals, meteorologists, astronomers, those employed in emergency services, and many other civilians. Today military time is as much part of the culture as tactical gear and tactical hydration packs, something that any soldier can’t live without.

The 24-hour clock is primarily used in the non-english speaking countries in Europe, Lation America, Asia and Africa. Most English speaking countries expect The United States usually switches back and forth between 12-hour and 24-hour time because neither have been established as the standard. Although the 24 hour clock is well established, the world and communication is constantly changing and who knows what the changing global community will need next. 

How to Read Military Time

As we discussed, the day starts at midnight and is written as 0000. The last minute of the day is written as 2359, or one minute before the next midnight. Midnight can also be written as either 0000 or 2400. A usage example showing the 12 hour clock vs military time would be a time table showing 4:00 pm to 12:00 midnight. This would be written as 1600 – 2400. Another example highlighting the difference between the two would be to show that 10:15 A.M. is written as 1015 in military time but 2:30 P.M. is written as 1430.

The best way to learn military time is to practice! Here is a chart to help you learn.

Military Time Chart

12-hour am-pm clock24-hour military time
12:00 midnight0000
1:00 AM0100
2:00 AM0200
3:00 AM0300
4:00 AM0400
5:00 AM0500
6:00 AM0600
7:00 AM0700
8:00 AM0800
9:00 AM0900
10:00 AM1000
11:00 AM1100
12:00 PM1200
1:00 PM1300
2:00 PM1400
3:00 PM1500
4:00 PM1600
5:00 PM1700
6:00 PM1800
7:00 PM1900
8:00 PM2000
9:00 PM2100
10:00 PM2200
11:00 PM2300
12:00 midnight2400

Sum Up

Converting military time to standard is fairly simple once you learn. Knowing how to read military time is a great skill to have. If you ever find yourself in a country where the military is used, knowing how to read and covert will make your travels easy. Today, most watches have the capabilities to view both 24 and 12 hour times with an easy change of settings.

If you are a soldier or military advocate then why not check out one of the Source Tactical backpacks which are used by militaries around the world.

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