Oh-$#*!-Hundred: Military Time for Dummies


Being married to the military means one day realizing that Military Time can be a totally different beast than time for the rest of the planet. And, I’m not talking about telling time on the 24-hour clock (although I still have to do math every time an even starts at 1900!).

No, I’m talking about Military Time as that unique, alternate-reality of time existing only unto the military. Military time can be exact. Or it can be relative. And it can be highly mathematically complicated. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “hurry up and wait,” then you may be familiar with Military Time.

An example of exact military time would be Oh-$#*!-Hundred. O-$#*!-Hundred is that moment you realize you will be late because you did not account for base traffic. Base traffic can be difficult to predict, because base time runs completely independent of time in the rest of the world.

Civilians in regular cities don’t have traffic jams at 0500, or on Fridays at 1300. Civilians are not an extra 10 minutes late because they forgot to plan around sunset and Colors o’clock, whereas we on Military Time have to (I mean, GET TO) pull over while the flag is lowered. If you’ve been lucky enough to be stationed on a joint base overseas, you know you can set your watch by the National Anthem and host nation national anthem first thing in the morning, and everyone knows to be quiet after Taps o’clock at night.

Oh-$#*!-Hundred is NOT, however, the moment two weeks before homecoming when you realize you’ve gained 15 lbs. during this deployment and have less than a month to lose it. That’s just normal life. But Oh-$#*!-Hundred MAY be applied to the moment you realize the commissary is swarming with payday traffic. That’s only fair.

Military Time can also be relative. We all know each day is 24 hours, except the last day of deployment, which is roughly 478 hours. To make up for this, the final day before deployment drops to just 5.5 hours, three hours of which must be spent looking for some absolutely essential, but hopelessly lost, item.

More examples of relative Military Time include: The first year of any tour feels twice as long as the last year, with the exception of the time spent waiting for orders (see below). Similarly, the first half of deployment takes longer than the second half, with the last month stretching the longest and the halfway month the second-longest. For civilians, this may make no sense.

These bizarre time shifts are similar to the continuum experienced while waiting for orders vs. the time between receiving orders and the pack out date. [Totally fictional] studies show that otherwise similar time blocks -- say, four weeks each -- while identical on the average calendar, actually stretch the space-time continuum and adjust reality. This means that military families will feel like they spend seven weeks and three days waiting for orders, yet have only four days left until pack out -- even when the calendar shows the time period was exactly the same.

The final, and most mathematically complicated, aspect of Military Time is especially applicable for OCONUS families. After moving overseas, suddenly everything must be converted. The hour of the day must be converted to time Stateside, then adjusted for Daylight Savings (not observed in many foreign countries). When combined with trying to learn a new language, keeping track of Colors o’clock, dividing kilometers per hour to miles and multiplying pounds to kilos—not to mention constant dollar conversion math—time conversion can quickly go awry.

Military Time can be especially overwhelming to the uninitiated. But we’re military spouses, and we got this, even when it makes no sense. Anyone who’s ever found themselves accidentally trying to convert 5 p.m. into yen or euros will completely understand.

Hey, time is money, right? No? Oh-$#*!-Hundred.

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