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Life in the Military
Phonetic Alphabet & Military Time
To avoid misunderstandings and mistakes in the Military, communication must be clear, concise and commonly accepted among Service branches and even armed forces of other nations. Use of the phonetic alphabet and military time are two common practices that members employ to help guarantee this.
The NATO phonetic alphabet is frequently used to ensure letters spoken over communications systems like radios are received without any confusion.
For instance, if someone wanted to transmit the letter “M,” it could easily be heard as “N” on the receiving end. However, by using the phonetic alphabet and saying “Mike,” it’s unmistakably different from “November.”
The NATO Phonetic Alphabet:
In the Military, impactful missions happen around the world and around the clock. To ensure that a.m. doesn't get confused with p.m., service members use military time, which is based on a 24-hour clock, rather than a 12-hour system that civilians are most familiar with.
Calculating military time from standard time is not too complicated. Military time is always written as four digits (hours and minutes) without a colon. For instance, 9:00 a.m. would be written as 0900. If the time is past noon, you simply continue adding hours instead of restarting at 12:00. For example, 3:12 p.m. would be written as 1512.
Speaking military time is also a unique practice. Here are some guidelines:
- The word “hours” is said at the end.
- If the time is before noon, like 0930 (9:30 a.m.), the leading “zero” is always spoken. For instance, 0930 would be read as “zero nine thirty hours.”
- If the minutes are less than 10, you also say the zero. For example, 0709 (7:09 a.m.) would be read as “zero seven zero nine hours.”
- If there are no minutes present, such as 1100 (11:00 a.m.), the time is said with the word “hundreds,” as in “eleven hundred hours.”
Example conversions and pronunciations:
Military Time Pronunciation