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Living on a Coast Guard Cutter: Embracing Life at Sea

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The image of the U.S. Coast Guard evokes a sense of duty, honor, and the perseverance of the human spirit against the raw power of the sea. While news headlines and movies often focus on dramatic rescues and daring operations, the daily life aboard a Coast Guard cutter is a tapestry of countless unseen efforts that form the backbone of the service's mission.

This blog post takes a look at what life is truly like for the men and women living aboard one of these maritime workhorses.

The Coast Guard Mission

Maritime interests are critical to our nation’s security, economy, and prosperity. Our waterways are precious environmental resources used for both commerce and recreation. The Coast Guard protects our seas, and protects us from the sea.

Helping mariners in distress is a core Coast Guard mission, with more than 3,500 lives and more than $75 million in property saved per year.

Introduction to the Coast Guard Cutter

The Coast Guard's fleet of cutters is as diverse as the missions they serve. From the legendary Eagle, a three-masted training vessel, to modern multi-mission cutters like the National Security Cutter, each ship is designed to carry out a specific set of responsibilities. But what truly sets these vessels apart is their endurance and adaptability. Cutters are more than just boats; they are floating communities, workplaces, and even, at times, an aegis for the United States.

A Day in the Life

A typical day aboard a Coast Guard cutter is anything but typical. Crew members live in tight quarters, necessitating a level of teamwork and camaraderie that is unmatched in most workplaces. The day usually begins early with reveille, followed by muster, and then a hearty breakfast. After that, operations commence, which could include searches for drug smugglers, ice-breaking in the Arctic, or sweeping for mines in strategic waters.

The Crew's Perspective

Our article explores the intricacies of the day-to-day routines on a Coast Guard cutter, covering their various duty stations, such as the bridge, engine room, and flight deck. With input from former Coast Guard personnel, we provide some insight into the roles of cutters.

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The heart and soul of any Coast Guard cutter is its crew. Every service member and officer has a unique story to tell about their time on the water.

For example, while search and rescue personnel can easily talk about the rescues they’ve performed, Coast Guard cutter crews experience not just search and rescue, but a multitude of other missions. For example, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, a Coast Guard cutter operating under control of the U.S. Navy, guarded Iraqi Oil Platforms. A Coast Guard cutter not long ago also intercepted a drug-smuggling submarine and a dramatic video was captured of the Coastie jumping aboard the top of the sub in rough seas and pounding on it to get the drug smugglers to open the sub’s hatch.

A Coast Guard cutter can also perform routine patrols that deter narco-trafficking, but also assist in rescuing mariners and serve as a deterrent to pirates. A Coast Guard cutter also routinely interdicts migrants attempting to enter the United States illegally.

The Cutter

Modern cutters are marvels of engineering and are equipped with the latest technology to carry out their missions effectively. Did you know that at one point, Coast Guard cutters were equipped with anti-ship missiles like the Harpoon missile?

The term “cutter” identifies a Coast Guard vessel 65 feet in length or greater, with accommodations for a crew to live aboard. Major cutters like the national security cutter are capable of carrying multiple cutter boat types, including the over-the-horizon (CB-OTH-IV) rigid-hull inflatables, and long-range interceptors (CB-LRI-11).

Polar-class icebreakers also carry an Arctic survey boat, a polar variant of the CB-OTH-IV, and landing craft. Most cutters more than 200 feet in length are capable of accommodating helicopters. There are approximately 243 U.S. Coast Guard cutters.

The Cutter's Role in the Community

Coast Guard cutters are not just instruments of law enforcement and security; they play a vital role in the communities they serve. From providing humanitarian assistance to participating in local events, these vessels are ambassadors of goodwill.

For example, when an environmental disaster strikes, whether manmade or not, the Coast Guard cutter springs into action. When oil tankers run aground and begin to spill petroleum into the water, or a hurricane causes an oil platform offshore to leak, the Coast Guard steps in and conducts spillage suppression operations to help combat the spread of oil. This can be a serious contribution to a local community that might depend on the ocean or waterway to drive its economy.

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The life of a Coast Guardsman on a Coast Guard cutter is one of service, sacrifice, and significance. From the routine to the remarkable, every moment at sea contributes to a legacy of protecting the American coastlines and waterways.

In wrapping up this narrative, hopefully you have gained a newfound appreciation for the men and women who call these the Coast Guard cutter their home. Hopefully you developed a deeper understanding of the critical role these vessels play in safeguarding our seas.

Through the facts presented here and a thorough exploration of the Coast Guard life, we hope you walk away with a sense of appreciation for the unsung heroes of our waters and a commitment to the spirit of service that defines the U.S. Coast Guard enterprise.

How to Personalize a Military Retirement Plaque

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The act of hanging up one’s uniform and transitioning into a new phase of life is a monumental moment for any military service member. Whether you're celebrating decades of dedicated service or saying goodbye to a duty that's been integral to your identity, one of the symbolic tokens of this occasion is the military retirement plaque. The plaque stands as a testament to service, honor, and accomplishment, not only in the eyes of the retiree but for generations to come.

However, a generic military retirement plaque may not capture the essence of a personal military experience, the commendations, or the unique qualities that define a distinguished career. By personalizing a military retirement plaque, service members infuse it with a touch of their own personality and story, creating a unique memento that truly honors their individual sacrifice and achievement.

The Significance of a Military Retirement Plaque

A military career is filled with moments of triumph, dedication, and sometimes, sacrifice. Each assignment, commendation, and promotion, reflects a piece of the service member’s story. When it's time to retire, the military retirement plaque becomes a tableau, summarizing the narrative of service that's unfolded over the years. It captures the milestones, the accolades, and the core values that have driven the individual from the very start of their career.

Why Personalization Matters

The choice to personalize a retirement plaque is rooted in the need to create a lasting token that represents the sum total of a service member's experiences and values. A personalized military retirement plaque transcends a generic form by:

  • Reflecting individual achievements
  • Showcasing unique skills and duties
  • Demonstrating the growth and career trajectory

An off-the-shelf military retirement plaque might have elegance, but it lacks the personal touch that's so vital in military culture where honor and individual service are esteemed. Personalization not only reflects the personality and values of the service member but also the unique challenges and victories of their particular branch and role within the military.

Elements to Consider When Personalizing Your Plaque

Personalizing a military retirement plaque can involve various elements that collectively depict a comprehensive and individualized account of a military career. These elements can include but are not limited to:

Branch-Specific Insignia

Oftentimes, the branch of the military becomes a defining and central part of a member's identity. The Army's star, the Navy's anchor, the Air Force's Arnold wings, or the Marines' globe, eagle and anchor— these insignias can be prominently featured on the plaque, showcasing the retiree's lifelong allegiance.

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Service Dates and Deployments

A career in the military often spans over several significant historic events. Service dates alongside major deployments provide a snapshot of the retiree's professional timeline and highlights their contributions during critical moments and operations.

Awards and Commendations

The recognition of exceptional service is a vital component of the military retirement plaque. Each medal and commendation is a story in and of itself, a testament to bravery, skill, and dedication. Featuring these honors on the military retirement plaque acknowledges the retiree's legacy of excellence.

Special Achievements and Milestones

Promotions, advancements, and service milestones such as a certain number of years in a specific rank or achieving special qualifications are benchmarks of the retiree's career progression and should be celebrated in the plaque.

Personal Touches

Adding a personal photo or engraving a significant quote can add a distinctly human element. This could be an image of the veteran during service or a poignant quote that has been a guiding light throughout their career.

Designing Your Personal Military Retirement Plaque

Each personalized military retirement plaque is as unique as the individual it honors. Thoughtful design ensures that the final product is a cherished keepsake that accurately represents the retiree's accomplishments and character.

Engaging a Professional Designer

A professional with experience in military awards and creating military retirement plaques can offer invaluable expertise. A seasoned business like USAMM understands the nuances of service and knows how to translate a career's highlights into a visually striking and meaningful design. 

Choosing the Right Materials

The material of the military retirement plaque, be it wood, brass, crystal, or another suitable option, should be robust to withstand the test of time and the elements it may face, be it on a home wall or in a hall of honors.

Iterating on the Design

Don't be afraid to offer feedback on the initial designs or suggest changes. The goal is to ensure the final military retirement plaque reflects the retiree's vision and carries the weight of their service.

Legacy and Inspiration

Long after the initial celebrations, the plaque will stand as a legacy and an inspiration. For future service members, it will serve as a benchmark to strive for. For the retiree, it will be a reminder of their call to service, forever etched in metal, wood, or stone.


A military retirement plaque isn't just a token of appreciation; it’s a powerful symbol of the dedication, loyalty, and service of the men and women who have served in uniform. Personalizing this symbol adds depth and character, ensuring it remains a poignant reminder, not just of the time served, but of the life lived in service to a greater cause.

military retirement plaque

The act of personalizing a military retirement plaque is an art in itself—a gesture that embodies the spirit of the retiree's service. It stands as a bridge between the past and the future, a permanent and personal reminder of a career that will forever hold a distinguished place in the annals of military history.

For those preparing to hang up their military boots, the creation and unveiling of their personalized retirement plaque is a moment that will undoubtedly be etched in their memory as one of the most poignant and proud of their long and storied career. It's a thoughtful act full of significance and sentiment, marking not an end, but a new chapter in a life characterized by service.

How Deep Can A Navy Submarine Actually Go?

how deep can a navy submarine go underway

The notion of human exploration has always been interwoven with a fascination for depths—be it the perils of the Mariana Trench or the secrets lurking in the abyss of space. In the terrestrial domain, the U.S. Navy has continually pushed the boundaries of undersea technology, crafting vessels capable of descending to jaw-dropping depths.

It's a tale of engineering mastery—a blend of human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of security that plumbs the very depths of the unknown. This post is an immersive deep-dive into the world of Navy submarines, their astonishing capabilities, and the physics that dictate their deepest voyages.

The Evolution of Naval Submersibles

To comprehend the present capabilities of Navy submarines, it’s essential to trace their lineage. The first significant leap in submersible technology occurred during WWII, where diesel-electric subs, although relatively slow, significantly extended the operational range of naval fleets. The following Cold War era witnessed an arms race that fueled the development of nuclear-powered submarines, granting them unprecedented endurance and stealth beneath the waves.

Each generation of submarines builds upon its predecessor’s advances, integrating streamlined designs, advanced materials, and, crucially, deeper-diving capabilities. These undersea leviathans epitomize a cumulative growth in human expertise, learning from each submerged sortie more than the last. The question is not just technical but chronological; with each passing year, how deep can a Navy submarine go?

The Physics of Submersion

At its heart, the science of deep-sea submersion relies on two cardinal principles: buoyancy and pressure. When a submarine descends, it displaces water, and Archimedes' principle comes into play—there's an upward buoyant force equal to the weight of the water it displaces. The submarine's internal ballast system manages the seawater displacement, maintaining the desired depth without becoming too heavy to ascend.

The depth a Navy submarine can reach is limited by the pressure it can withstand. The deeper the sub, the greater the hydrostatic pressure on its hull. This demands rigorous materials engineering, with submarine hulls composed of high-strength steel or, in some cases, titanium. These alloys are designed to endure immense pressure gradients while keeping the vessel and its crew securely watertight. So, how deep can a Navy submarine go? Read on.

Breaking Down Depth Records

U.S. Navy submarines are classified into multiple categories, each optimized for a particular naval strategy. The Virginia-class fast attack submarines, for instance, emphasize versatility and speed, with reported maximum depths reaching 800 feet, which is great enough to crush most land mammals.

how deep can a navy submarine go docked

The secretive Seawolf-class and the Ohio-class guided-missile submarines, designed for stealth and firepower, reportedly have an operational depth in excess of 800 feet, though these figures are often classified and making it hard to answer the question, how deep can a Navy submarine go? It's important to note that the precise "crush depth"—the limit beyond which the hull is expected to collapse—is guarded information. Knowing the deepest a submarine can go is one thing; understanding how it will fare under extreme pressure is quite another.

The Pressures of Protection

When a submarine reaches depths of several hundred feet, the external pressure becomes a formidable adversary. The construction of the hull is a delicate balance; it must be strong enough to withstand the vast tons per square inch pushing against it while remaining light enough for the vessel to travel swiftly and efficiently.

Subs aren’t just built to withstand these pressures; they're also designed to detect changes in the underwater environment that might indicate depth exceeding their recommended limits. Hydrophones, sonar, and advanced sensor arrays work together, providing the crew vital data to make informed decisions about descent and ascent.

The Deep Dives of Discovery

While the primary mission of Navy submarines is defense, they have also played crucial roles in scientific discovery. The USS Nautilus was the first vessel to travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic beneath the ice of the North Pole, opening new frontiers in both exploration and geopolitics. Today, submarines equipped with laboratories enable researchers to study marine biology and geology in remote and inaccessible underwater territories.

The dual use of submarines for defense and exploration underlines the interconnectedness of seemingly divergent pursuits. The depths these vessels can fathom are not mere figures on a chart but the keystones to unlocking the ocean’s mysteries and safeguarding the nation’s waters.

Pushing the Boundaries Without Breaking

The advancement of Navy submarine technology is a tale of unprecedented human and mechanical perseverance. Engineers, naval architects, and submariners continually push the envelope, striving for that nexus of technical prowess and operational safety. The question is not just how deep can a Navy submarine go, but ‘how deep with confidence’ can a submarine submerge, conduct its mission, and resurface intact?

Deep-sea exploration remains one of the most profound and mysterious valleys of human endeavor. Each mission, each record-breaking descent, not only adds to our collective understanding of the aquatic world but also propels the science of submersible technology forward. In doing so, Navy submarines descend not just into the ocean's chasms but into the annals of historical achievement, surfacing only to chart a course for the next unexplored horizon.

It is important to note that in 2019, American Victor Vescovo took his submersible to a depth of 35,853 feet. It is the deepest recorded human dive and while it was not conducted by the U.S. Navy, it illustrates how deep man can venture into the oceans and it directly answers the question, how deep can a submarine go, but it does not answer the question, how deep can a Navy submarine go? In fact, it is highly unlikely anyone will really know the answer to that question because it is classified.


The depth to which a Navy submarine can go is a measure of human achievement—one that encapsulates the dynamic intersection of national defense, innovation, and the innate human desire to extend our reach. From the kilometer-deep exploits of the Trieste to the stealthy undersea ballets of modern nuclear submarines, the narrative of undersea exploration is one of success against all odds.

It’s a saga that continues to unfold, and with each passing foray into the ocean’s shadows, Navy submarines redefine the limits of our ability to thrive in the most hostile environments on Earth. Their stories are not just of duty and danger but of a relentless pursuit of what lies beneath—and the human spirit that drives us there.

How deep can a Navy submarine go? As deep as can be imagined.

How to Celebrate the 4th of July with Your Family

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The 4th of July is more than just a day marked on the calendar; it's a celebration of freedom, unity, and the vibrant spirit of a nation. Families all across America come together to honor this special date, creating longstanding traditions and beautiful memories.

Whether you're planning your very first 4th of July celebration or looking for tips on how to celebrate 4th of July, this post is brimming with ideas to ensure your Independence Day is filled with excitement, meaning, and joy.

How to Celebrate 4th of July with Patriotic Clothes

Clothing serves as a canvas for expressing your patriotic pride. From flag-themed t-shirts to outfits in the national colors of red, white, and blue, apparel can set a festive tone for the day. Consider organizing a 'most patriotic outfit' contest within your family, complete with themed accessories and sparkling decorations. Kids and adults alike can compete in this lighthearted event, adding a sense of playfulness to the day's celebrations.

How to Celebrate 4th of July with Accessories

Don't just stop at clothing. Get creative with temporary tattoos, face paint, and even outfit and accessory DIY. Incorporate the stars and stripes into your attire with flair. Top hats, bandanas, and socks with a touch of Americana can jazz up any outfit and make for some superb photo ops. Remember to wear comfortable clothing if you're spending the day outdoors attending parades or festivals.

how to celebrate 4th of july uscg

Organize a Backyard Picnic with a Patriotic Palette

There's something about the open sky and a great spread that encapsulates the spirit of the 4th of July. Plan a menu that features the best of American cuisine, from grilled meats and corn on the cob to apple pie and ice cream. Don't just focus on the taste — add to the visual feast with dishes that echo the national colors. Watermelons, blueberries, and strawberries can be woven into dishes for a uniquely celebratory look.

If you’re asking yourself how to celebrate 4th of July with food, well, the above should answer that question.

And be sure to decorate your picnic area with holiday-appropriate tablecloths, napkins, and plates. Red, white, and blue utensils, cups, and serving trays punctuate the theme. This is also an ideal time to teach children about the significance of the holiday and its historical context – it can be done subtly through the themed dishes or more directly through storytelling as the day unfolds.

Engage in Civic and Community Events

Many towns and cities host parades, concerts, and fireworks on the 4th of July. These events not only exemplify the collective pride of a community but also offer a chance to experience the holiday from a broader perspective. Attending local events can be a way to support local organizations and mingle with neighbors, promoting a sense of unity and camaraderie.

Prepare for parades by creating themed banners or signs with your children. Whether you choose to walk in a local parade, participate in a community event, or simply observe from the sidelines, these activities are perfect for instilling a love and respect for national traditions and historical figures.

If you plan on being a guest speaker, don’t forget to wear your patriotic or service pride t-shirt to tie in your love of country or service with America’s birthday.

Celebrate with Crafts, Games and People

The 4th of July is an opportunity for families to engage in crafts and games that are both fun and educational. Crafting sessions can focus on creating decorations for the home or yard, while the games played could also emphasize unity and cooperation. Ideas for crafts include making paper lanterns, creating a family flag, or concocting homemade bubble solutions in red, white, and blue. Traditional games like sack races, tug-of-war, and scavenger hunts can be played with a thematic twist.

Such activities not only entertain but also provide a platform for teaching about history, teamwork, and the value of celebrating the nation's landmarks. Crafts can be displayed as proud symbols of family creativity, while games can bring out the competitive spirit and result in many laughs and shared joy.

The 4th of July is also a day to recognize those who have served and sacrificed for the country. Families can make an effort to reach out to current service members and veterans, showing gratitude and appreciation for their commitment. This can be done through visits, letters, or participating in organized events that honor the military.

If you're in an area where military presence is prominent, there should be plenty of things to do so you won't ask how to celebrate 4th of July. Consider attending a ceremony or commemorative service. Children can learn about the different branches of the armed forces and the significance of service through these interactions. It is important for younger generations to understand the freedoms they enjoy and the responsibility that comes with them.

Amidst the revelry, it's essential to set aside time for reflection on the 4th of July. Families can share stories about their heritage, discuss the principles that the country was founded on, and talk about the importance of democracy. Observing moments of silence can provide an opportunity for individual thanks and collective remembrance.

How to Celebrate 4th of July (Conclusion)

Encourage various family members to take on the role of the day's official photographer, videographer, or chronicler. The compilation of these records can become an annual tradition in itself, something to look forward to, and an occasion to relive the festivities with joy.

The 4th of July is a momentous occasion, calling for spirited celebrations and memorable family times. By employing these rich suggestions, you can elevate your family's experience of this holiday to new heights. Cherish the unity, bask in the freedom, and savor the sweetness of togetherness. From all of us at USAMM, happy Independence Day! We hope this blog post gave you some good pointers on how to celebrate 4th of July.

What Do The Navy Stripes on Sleeves Mean?

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For those uninitiated in the complex, colorful world of naval uniforms, the sight of Navy stripes on sleeves might seem purely decorative. However, to comprehend the full extent of those lines, fine and seemingly unassuming, is to grasp the depth of tradition, honor, and achievement they represent. These insignias tell stories of rank, experience, and dedication to service that resonate throughout naval history.

Whether you're a recent recruit, a proud veteran, or just someone who finds the naval uniform intriguing and a source of questions, this deep-dive into the meaning of Navy stripes on sleeves is for you.

Origins of Navy Stripes on Sleeves

The practice of putting Navy stripes on sleeves has deep historical roots. Pioneered in the 18th century by the British Royal Navy, the concept was a straightforward one: to visibly indicate the seniority and therefore command structure among the crew. This was a time when communication on vast, often smoke-shrouded decks was as much a matter of visual recognition as it was the barked orders of a familiar voice.

The simplicity of the design—horizontal lines of varying number—allowed for quick identification. It's from this necessity to establish authority on the high seas that we derive the modern custom of Navy stripes on sleeves.

Modern naval uniforms, much like the codes they honor, derive their visual language from traditional roots. The meaning behind each stripe, however, may not be as intuitive to an outsider as it is to a seasoned sailor.

Rating Badges

The most common and easily recognizable stripes are the Rating Badges worn by enlisted sailors. These consist of diagonal stripes that are intended to identify a sailor's occupation—ranging from a single chevron for a seaman recruit to a 'crow' for a petty officer. Each one is a declaration of specialized skill and contribution to the ship's operation.

Service Stripes

In contrast, some Navy stripes on sleeves are worn to denote years of honorable service. Each stripe, or "hash mark," usually represents four years of service. If the individual has served during a time of war, they may be authorized to wear a "wartime service hash" in addition to their regular service stripes.

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Rank Insignia Stripes

At the crux of naval hierarchy are the Rank Insignia Stripes. These Navy stripes on sleeves are not so much stripes as they are solid bars of braid on the cuffs or epaulets of the uniform. An admiral could possibly have up to four stars, whereas a captain would have four stripes. Officers of lesser rank would wear fewer stripes, down to the single stripe of an ensign or a second lieutenant in the Navy.

Understanding and recognizing the nuances of these markers is crucial to interpreting the experience and leadership within the Navy.

Evolutions and Exclusions

Naval tradition is not static. It evolves over time to reflect the values and necessities of the modern Navy. For instance, the Royal Navy's historic use of Navy stripes on sleeves to denote time in service has been replaced by a system using a colored ribbon. The U.S. Navy, however, retains the service stripe, respecting the history and dedication of its sailors through tradition.

Rank stripes have also changed. Until the 1940s, the U.S. Navy's commissioned officer's rank stripes were worn on the lower sleeve, but they were relocated to the shoulder board for practical reasons. Despite these shifts, the symbols persist as a way of connecting contemporary sailors with those who came before.

The Importance of Tradition

While traditions may come from a place of necessity and pragmatism, they are what perpetuate the sense of naval identity and mission. A uniform fosters unity among the naval community, and its symbols convey a lineage of duty and honor.

Traditions also facilitate a sense of continuity across time. An ensign today may wear the same style as an ensign from centuries past, uniting them in a silent fraternity of service. This preservation of tradition allows the past to have a meaningful way of speaking to the present, offering respect to the generations of veterans and a solid foundation from which to face the future.

Conclusion: Navy Stripes on Sleeves

To the untrained eye, the Navy stripes on sleeves might appear to be a ranking system—a way of organizing the right people at the right place in the chain of command. While this is true, they are so much more. They are an enduring symbol, a marker of time, a testament to service.

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For those who wear Navy stripes on sleeves the stripes embody countless days and nights, hours of training, and a commitment to something greater than themselves. When deciphered, they reveal not only a person's individual position within the Navy but a heritage of sacrifice, discipline, and bravery that every sailor carries with honor.

The next time you see a naval uniform adorned with these stripes, see beyond the threads and fabric, and recognize the weight of history they carry. They are the legacy of sailors past and present, a stirring tribute to the profound service within the heart of the Navy.

Why Does The Military Use Military Time?

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Time is a vital component of human life, helping us structure our day and facilitate coordination. But what if the conventional timekeeping system was somehow inadequate? For many armed forces across the globe, it has been. This is where "military time" steps in—a 24-hour clock that provides unambiguous time, removing the risk of misunderstanding due to the absence of AM and PM. It’s not just about tradition; it’s a practical choice with historical roots and valuable insights that we can all benefit from understanding.

In this comprehensive post, we unravel the reasons behind the military's unique timekeeping system. Share in the legacy as we explore the past, present, and potential future of military time.

Why does the military use military time?

To appreciate the significance of military time, it's essential to look back at its origins. The 24-hour system dates back centuries and was initially used in early Egyptian, Greek, and Roman societies. However, it was the demands of the military—both in peace and during conflict—that solidified its usage.

From the Battle of Waterloo to the D-Day landings, coordinated military operations have hinged on precise timing. The ambiguity of the 12-hour clock proved costly in scenarios demanding clarity and immediacy, leading to the adoption of a new standard—the 24-hour clock. This clarity helped in planning, execution, and communication across languages and borders.

The International Standard

Adoption of the 24-hour clock became international, primarily through military and industrial necessities. The format's clear and uniform nature made it an essential tool in global communication, leading to its rise as an international standard.

The Inner Workings of Military Time

Understanding military time means grasping a fundamentally different way to tell time. With the absence of AM and PM, the 24-hour clock uses a single cycle of 24 hours, starting at midnight (0000) and ending at midnight the next day (2400). A clear and unambiguous system, it represents a significant shift in perspective from the fluidity of the traditional 12-hour clock used in civilian life.

Why No AM or PM?

The question arises—why the need to separate time into two distinct 12-hour periods in civilian life? The reason is tied to tradition rather than utility. The Latin phrases ante meridiem (before noon) and post meridiem (after noon) originated at a time when there was no immediate need for precise timekeeping as we understand it today. Conversely, the military has always required an exact and universally understood method of telling time, leading to the adoption of an unbroken 24-hour clock.

The Functional Advantages of Military Time

Adopting military time extends practical advantages beyond simply avoiding confusion between morning and afternoon hours. The system offers benefits in diverse fields ranging from transportation to healthcare, and any situation that demands a higher level of precision and clarity.

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In situations where accuracy is mission-critical, such as global travel timetables and emergency services, miscommunications regarding time can lead to severe ramifications. Military time's precision ensures that such errors are all but eliminated.

With a growing global community, precise and universal communication is more important than ever. Military time enables effective communication across different cultures, languages, and time zones, offering a single, unambiguous method understood worldwide.

In the civilian world, we often encounter military time in contexts that demand unambiguous timing, such as public transportation schedules and event planning, or in professions such as logistics, aviation, and healthcare. But its influence extends further.

The Digital Age's Impact

With the rise of digital interfaces, there’s also a growing trend toward simplifying and centralizing timekeeping. This includes a more widespread integration of military time formats in everything from smartphones to computer software, thereby increasing its visibility and normalization in daily life.

The continued integration of military time into modern life raises pertinent questions about the universal adoption of this system. While it may never fully replace the familiar 12-hour format, there's a strong case for its broader use.

A Shift in Mindset

The acceptance of military time requires a shift in mindset, but it’s one that could refine our approach to schedules and time appreciation. By promoting a more exacting understanding of time, we could see improvements in punctuality and productivity.

The use of military time is a step towards a singular method of global timekeeping. As our world becomes more interconnected, a universal time standard becomes increasingly attractive, if not essential, for effective international communication.

Whether you're considering adopting military time in your personal or professional life, or you're simply intrigued by its history and application, there’s much to gain from engaging with this robust system of timekeeping.

For those interested in integrating military time, a gradual transition is often the most practical approach. Start by familiarizing yourself with the 24-hour clock, and use it alongside the conventional system until it becomes second nature.

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Wrapping Up

The use of military time is a testament to the adaptability and foresight of human systems in response to the demands of their environment. While it may have originated as a practical solution for war, it now serves as an anchor for precise communication and global unity.

Through our exploration, it's clear that adopting elements of this timekeeping tradition can significantly impact both individual and collective experiences with time. And perhaps, as we grapple with an increasingly busy and interconnected world, the principles that underpin military time can offer invaluable lessons for managing our most precious resource—time itself. Whether you choose to integrate elements of military time into your life or not, its legacy will continue to shape our understanding and approach to timekeeping for generations to come.

How To Learn Military Time: 3 Easy Steps

how to learn military time watch

Understanding and being able to read military time is a valuable skill that often goes overlooked. Yet for anyone who is interested in fields like healthcare, aviation, emergency services, and of course, the military, it can be a crucial element of day-to-day life. Unlike the standard 12-hour clock, military time—also known as the 24-hour clock system—uses an unambiguous format that is regarded for its clear and exact time readings.

While the 12-hour clock with AM and PM notations is the standard in most areas, military time is a consistent feature in work environments where precision is paramount. If you're looking to bolster your time-telling skills or if you are simply curious about the ins and outs of military time, this guide breaks it down into three easy steps in how to learn military time.

Step 1: Deciphering the Basics

The first step in how to learn military time is to grasp the fundamentals. Unlike the 12-hour clock, military time continues the count into the afternoon and evening without resetting. The day is divided into 24 hours, starting at midnight (2400 hours).

The primary difference lies in how hours are represented and spoken. Military time does not employ the AM and PM distinctions. Instead, it utilizes a four-digit number to signify the time. For instance, straightforward times such as 5 AM or 5 PM become 0500 hours and 1700 hours, respectively, when converted to military time.

A helpful basic rule in how to learn military time is to remember that any hour from 0000 to 0959 retains the "hours past midnight" format. However, from 1000 hours onward, the hours notation includes the thousands place, and the "hundreds" do not exceed 24, signifying the end of the day. For example, 3:00 in the afternoon under the 12-hour clock is written and spoken as 1500 hours in military time.

To refine these basics in how to learn military time, consider practicing by converting standard times to military time and vice versa. Visualization can be an effective method in this stage. Use a clock face or create a timeline to chart the conversion process for various times of the day.

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Step 2: Adopting a Conversion Strategy

How to learn military time relies on the development of a reliable conversion strategy to transition smoothly between military time and the standard 12-hour clock. The key to a successful strategy is understanding the principles behind military time and finding mnemonic devices that work for you.

A day ends, as we all know, at midnight or 12 AM. That is known as 2400 hours in military time because it is the 24th hour of the 24-hour day. However, a new day begins right at one second past midnight, but for the sake of illustration since we generally don’t track seconds when we tell time, the clock on a new day starts running at 12:01 AM.

Using this example, 12:01 AM would become 0001 hours in the 24-hour military clock because the 24-hour clock begins running at that time. With each hour we simply add a hundred for each whole hour. For example, the time 12:30 AM would be 0030 hours. The time 1:00 AM would become 0100 hours.

Minutes don’t really change. For example, 1:45 AM would become 0145 hours. In essence, you are simply adding an “O” before the numbers and removing the colon mark. As you can see, there are several ways on how to learn military time.

Put simply, after midnight for the first hour of the new day, times are used using four digits and the first two spaces in the time will be the letter “O” followed by the number zero in the second place. Once the first hour of the day is complete, the second digit becomes a one and the minutes are recorded using the third and fourth spots in the four-character line. So, 1:55 AM is O155. The number 55 represents the minutes.

At the core of the military time system is the need for precision and clarity. Knowing that "O," not "zero," designates hours can prevent misinterpretations over the radio or in handwritten notes. You should also familiarize yourself with the concept of "Zulu time," the standard time in the military and aviation, denoted by the letter "Z" and serving as a universal reference.

Mnemonics can be an invaluable tool for students to use in how to learn military time. Simple phrases or acronym-based systems can turn the initially daunting task of converting to military time into a more easily navigable process. For example, creating an acronym such as "PEMDAS" (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, Addition and Subtraction) can help remember the order of operations when dealing with numbers in calculations.

You could use similar devices for military time. Some popular ones include:

"Ate" for Eight: The word "ate" sounds like the numeral "8," serving as a memory aid for the 12-hour to 24-hour conversion.

"Eleven at Eleven" or "Twelve at Noon and Midnight": Mental images or associations can be powerful. If 11 o'clock is a challenge, thinking "eleven at eleven" can reinforce the 1100 hours conversion.

Step 3: Application and Reinforcement

With a strong foundation and conversion strategy in place, the final step in how to learn military time is practical application and ongoing reinforcement. Here are strategies for real-world application and continuous practice.

Start integrating the use of military time in your daily life. You can also create flashcards with standard and military times, quizzing yourself or friends. Set your devices, such as smartphones or digital watches, to display military time regularly. These are a few things you can do if you find yourself asking how to learn military time.

how to learn military time soldier

You can also attend events or watch news briefings where organizers or presenters use military time to announce schedules. If you have a relative or friend in the military or aviation fields, engage with them using military time in casual conversation.

Once you're comfortable with basic conversions, consider exploring more advanced techniques and scenarios. Learn about daylight savings time adjustments and how it applies to military time. Practice reading event logs or timetables and challenge yourself with time "math" problems where you add or subtract hours and minutes in military time.

Mastering military time is an enriching endeavor that broadens your horizons and could open new opportunities in various professional and academic avenues. By understanding the principles, adopting conversion strategies, and consistently applying and reinforcing your skills, you can confidently add military time interpretation to your list of proficiencies. Remember, practice makes perfect, and in time, your comfort with military time will become second nature.

What Is A United States Merchant Marine?

what is a merchant marine oiler

What is a Merchant Marine?

First, what is a Merchant Marine? A merchant mariner is an employee of the U.S. Merchant Marine (USMM). The USMM is managed by the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration and consists of privately-owned and federally owned, U.S.-registered merchant ships and vessels that provide waterborne transportation for passengers and cargo moving in domestic and international commerce.

USMM supports international trade, disaster relief, military conflict and the general infrastructure of America's waterways. Mariners are the men and women who run it all, from our ports and connectors to vessel management and shipping around the world. Both the civilian mariners and the merchant vessels are managed by a combination of the government and private sectors. 

The USMM primarily transports domestic and international cargo and passengers during peacetime, and it operates and maintains deep-sea merchant ships, tugboats, towboats, ferries, dredges, excursion vessels, charter boats and other waterborne craft on the oceans, the Great Lakes, rivers, canals, harbors, and other waterways. In times of war, USMM can be an auxiliary to the U.S. Navy and can be called upon to deliver military personnel and materiel for the military.

Technically, the U.S. Merchant Marine isn’t a governmental service, but there are identification and credentials issued by the federal government for standards purposes. However, some USMM officers are commissioned as U.S. Navy Reserve officers.

What is a Merchant Marine that is licensed?

Licensed mariners fill many of the Merchant Marine's leadership and training positions, directing the organization and making key decisions across the board. Think of them as professionals with advanced training in their field (significant maritime-related experience and knowledge) that require a special designation (a license) who provide critical functionality to Merchant Marine Operations. Like surgeons to their operating room staff or airline pilots to their flight crew.

Many who have licenses are officers on merchant ships and they have attended a maritime academy where they not only earned a degree, but also advanced credentials. There are seven maritime academies located across the country: The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the California State University Maritime Academy, the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, the Maine Maritime Academy, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the State University of New York Maritime College and the Texas A&M Maritime Academy.

What is a Merchant Marine that is unlicensed?

Unlicensed mariners are the backbone of the Merchant Marine workforce, an army of skilled and newly trained workers with little or no prior experience afloat. These mariners hold “certifications” rather than licenses, though they can and often do advance into the licensed ranks.

Is the Merchant Marines a military branch?

While it has a similar feel to that of U.S. military organizations, the USMM is not a military organization. However, it is a disciplined organization like the traditional six service departments (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Space Force, Air Force and Coast Guard) under the Department of Defense. It has leadership hierarchies, codes of conduct, vast support networks, and legislative backing.

The key difference is that Merchant Marines are civilians who must follow special laws and regulations designed for merchant mariners and enforced by a military body, the U.S. Coast Guard. If posted at sea, mariners will serve on commercial vessels, which can share similarities with military vessels, such as position titles and lifestyle. For example, the head of the engineering department is called the Chief Engineer and the vessel master – who commands the ship — is formally addressed as “Captain.” Most USMM vessels run more efficiently than a standard commercial vessel, and all those aboard must be ready to change course and support a U.S. mission anywhere in the world.

What is a Merchant Marine fleet?

Because of the ambiguity of the USMM fleet, the numbers vary, but according to the U.S. Merchant Marine website, USMM has more than 10,000 ships and vessels and Merchant Marines can serve in three departments: Deck, Engine and Steward. Most mariners spend their careers in only one of these departments. 

It is important to note that this number is vastly different than what is reported on other government websites and publications which report the ship numbers to be less than 200, but given that the number 10,000 was used on the official USMM site, we went with that number, but we did want to highlight the discrepancy between sources.

What is a Merchant Marine timeline?

The time required to become a member of USMM depends on the route an applicant takes. A person who joins as a seaman may become a mariner after passing required courses. They must then pass rigorous exams to receive the necessary credentials. The process, all in, can take a few months. An apprentice applicant will likely train for more than two years, though much of that training time is sea time.

Those who are interested in becoming officers must attend a maritime academy which can take four years or more to complete.

What is a Merchant Marine age requirement?

Anyone interested in joining the USMM can do so at age 16. There is no age restriction otherwise and people can join the USMM even after retiring from other careers.

What is a Merchant Marine workforce?

There are roughly 13,000 mariners out there. Commercial companies employ roughly 7,500 professional mariners to operate their ships while the federal government employs another 6,000. The latter mostly operates vessels in the Military Sealift Command.

What is a Merchant Marine Veteran Program?

It is more accurately called the Military to Mariner program. This program allows veterans of any service to join USMM. Veterans do not need to be former members of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, or have served aboard U.S. Army vessels to apply. Veterans of any military service are encouraged to apply, and they do not have to have held a maritime related military occupation or rating.

Of course, veterans who served in maritime related service branches or occupations will certainly complete the training with more ease than say a military policeman, but there is no maritime skill requirement to join the USMM.

What is a Marine Force Recon & What It Takes

Marine Force Recon Firing

For the disciplined and the daring, few institutions on Earth hold the same allure as the U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance, commonly known as Marine Force Recon. These silent professionals epitomize the Marine Corps' ethos, taking some of the most hazardous and secretive missions in the U.S. armed forces, and their exceptional skills are honed to a scalpel's edge to operate with extreme efficiency. In this feature, we plunge into the depths of what it takes to become a member of Marine Force Recon and the pivotal role they play in global security.

Origins and Evolution

Marine Force Recon traces its lineage to the World War II era when the need for amphibious raids and reconnaissance missions was at an all-time high. They were not formally organized until 1957. Since then, the units have continually adapted to the evolving nature of warfare, becoming a critical asset for military planners and national security. Today, Marine Force Recon personnel combine their amphibious nature with advanced capabilities, working alongside other elite units and providing a 'first in' force, ready to assess and act in the most hazardous environments.

A Cut Above the Rest

Becoming a Force Recon Marine is the aspiration of many, but the achievement of few. The selection process is renowned for its toughness, designed to weed out all but the most capable candidates. Candidates are pushed to their physical and mental limits, a test of endurance that lasts weeks. From surviving intense physical fitness assessments to demonstrating proficiency in combat swimming and reconnaissance skills, those who make the cut are elite among the elite.

Training and Ethos

Upon being accepted into the training of Marine Force Recon, candidates undergo a grueling pipeline that includes the Basic Reconnaissance Course (BRC) where they learn the fundamentals of amphibious and combat operations. The training focuses on small-unit tactics, mission planning, and execution, specialized reconnaissance techniques, and survival skills suitable for any environment.

Marine Force Recon members, on average, start with attendance at the Infantry Rifleman Course, then as mentioned, attend the BRC, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training, combatant diver course, Airborne school, multi-mission parachute course, complete parachute systems course, and the high-risk personnel course. They also attend a variety of courses like Ranger School and Pathfinder training.

Marine Force Recon personnel embody the Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment, along with their unit's unique creed, which emphasizes silent movement, thorough recon, and dominating all forms of warfare.

Marine Force Recon Fast Roping

What Marine Force Recon Personnel Do

The operational tempo for Marine Force Recon personnel is intense. Their mission could be anything from reconnaissance and direct action to a variety of specialized tasks, such as personnel recovery and deep raids. They are experts in stealth, able to gather information without being detected, and are also fully capable of engaging the enemy.

Notable Missions and Contributions

Throughout their storied history, Marine Force Recon has participated in a plethora of notable missions, from the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts of Iraq and beyond. One such mission involved the locating and subsequent capture of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega during Operation Just Cause. Their expertise has consistently provided critical intelligence to operational planners, directly impacting the success of larger military endeavors.

The Force Recon Marine's Arsenal

To perform their duties, Marine Force Recon personnel are equipped with the latest in military technology and specialized gear. Their arsenal includes advanced weapons systems, reconnaissance equipment, and gear designed for mobility and survival. They employ digital satellite communication devices as well as thermal sights and advanced weapons.

In addition to physical equipment, Force Recon Marines leverage the most cutting-edge training and tactics, staying at the forefront of military innovation to maintain their edge in any environment or scenario.

Dynamic Training Environment

Force Recon Marines are not only masters of their craft but also lifelong learners. The dynamic nature of their missions means they are continuously trained in new technologies, reconnaissance methods, and evolving tactics. They engage in regular joint exercises with other U.S. Special Operations Forces units and international counterparts to ensure they are prepared for any contingency.

Leadership and Teamwork

Central to the success of a Marines Force Recon operation is the bond between team members. Each Marine is both a strong leader and follower, understanding that in the crucible of combat, the survival of the mission and the team depends on their individual actions. The trust between these warriors is unwavering, and it is this trust that allows them to act decisively, even in the most adverse conditions.

Marine Force Recon

Future of Force Recon

In an uncertain world, the role of Marine Force Recon Marines continues to be as vital as it is ambiguous. Their adaptability and willingness to tackle the unknown make them essential components of U.S. military power. As threats continue to evolve, so too will the training, tactics, and technologies that define Force Recon.

The Marine Corps is constantly refining and updating the capabilities of its Force Recon units to meet the challenges of modern warfare. Whether in cyberspace or the most remote battlegrounds, these silent professionals will undoubtedly play a critical role in shaping America’s military strategy for years to come.


Marine Force Recon units are the pinnacle of Marine Corps professionalism. Their dedication to their craft, their willingness to undertake the most dangerous missions, and their commitment to serving their country make them among the most sought-after experts in the field of warfare. For those with an interest in military history or contemporary global security, the story of the Marine Force Recon is a testament to human capability and military excellence, inspiring awe and admiration in its retelling.

What Is The Highest rank in the Army?


Understanding military ranks is like decoding a complex system—a vast hierarchy that dictates authority, responsibility, and an individual's place within the organization. For service members, veterans and those with a keen interest in the military, the pursuit for knowledge doesn't just end with understanding this structure; it often circles back to a simple, yet commonly asked question—what is the highest rank in the Army?

This blog post was written to provide not just the answer to this question but to also unravel the meaning and responsibilities associated with this pinnacle of military rank, while also addressing underlying queries that often accompany this topic.

What Does "Highest Rank" Mean in the Military?

Prior to revealing the highest rank in the Army, it’s important to first contextualize what "highest" truly means within this particular institution. Unlike many other professional settings, military ranks are not determined solely by skill, experience, or meritocracy—though these are important factors. Instead, they are intricately woven into the fabric of the military's tradition, reflecting a wide spectrum of qualities and achievements, such as leadership, knowledge, training, and service length.

The highest rank in the Army is not merely a personal accolade that is worn or another title to add to a resume; it embodies a lifetime of dedication and commitment to the country, as well as the core values of the military.

Determining the Apex Rank

In the U.S. Army, the highest attainable rank is General of the Army. This rank has only been held by a few individuals in the history of the United States, all of whom have made remarkable contributions to the nation and demonstrated unparalleled leadership. To reach the rank of General of the Army, a soldier must have served in a position of significant leadership, displaying the kind of strategic thinking and vision that is characteristic of those who achieve this rare distinction.

Those who were generals of the Army wore five stars on their uniform. Individuals like Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur were generals of the Army. The rank of General of the Army has had two incarnations. The first was introduced following the Civil War and the rank was held by Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Philip Sheridan. The second time the General of the Army rank was revived was during World War II and five men held the rank including those previously mentioned and George C. Marshall, Henry H. Arnold, and Omar Bradley.

A special rank of General of the Armies, which ranks above general of the Army, exists, but has been conferred only three times to John J. Pershing in 1919, and posthumously to George Washington in 1976. In December 2022, Ulysses S. Grant was posthumously promoted to the rank, 137 years after his death

Responsibilities of a General of the Army

A General of the Army is the highest possible rank in the U.S. Army. Those who achieve this rank have reached a position of authority that few others will experience. They are charged with leading the entire branch of the Army and, by extension, play a crucial role in the nation's defense and military strategy. Generals of the Army are often key figures in shaping policy, advising government officials, and overseeing the welfare of the entire military community.

The Path to the Top

Climbing the ranks in the military is a rigorous and demanding process. Individuals must demonstrate excellence at each stage of their career, embodying the core values of their respective service. They must also continually seek out opportunities for growth and development, whether through advanced education, specialized training, or practical experience in their chosen field.

It is important to note that the five-star, General of the Army rank has not been used since the Korean War. Feeling that the Army did not need the rank of five-star general, the Army discontinued promoting people to this rank, however, it is still a part of the rank structure although it is not used.

The rank of General, or four-star general, is today’s highest rank in the Army. There are about 15 four-star generals in the U.S. Army.

Who’s really on top?

To confuse things even more, the U.S. Army has positions that are equal in rank, however, the positions are structured in such a way that four-star generals can out rank each other. How? Consider that each branch of service is led by a four-star general, including the Army. Now, the chairman of the joint chiefs is also a four-star general, but the highest rank in the Army, the Army’s chief of staff, works as part of a team under the guidance of the chairman of the joint chiefs, which is also a four-star general.

Add to that the fact that an Army corps commander is a four-star general, but he is the same rank as the chairman of the joint chiefs and also the chief of staff of the Army, two positions which are “higher” in levels of responsibility and authority. Some four-star generals out rank their peers because of the position they occupy. As mentioned, a four-star who is the Army’s chief of staff is subordinate to the chairman of the joint chiefs.

A Lasting Impression

The rank of General of the Army leaves an indelible mark on the history and future of the U.S. Army. Those who aspire to such heights—and those who study the path of those who have already reached them—understand the gravity of this achievement. It is not only about the recognition of an individual’s accomplishments but also the collective efforts of countless soldiers, each playing a vital role in the success of the army as a whole.

In closing, for veterans and those currently serving, the inquiry into the highest rank in the Army is not merely a matter of semantics; it is a question that unveils the heart of the military's structure and the values around which this institution revolves.

For those who have dedicated their lives to the service of their country, the true highest rank is the one that is conferred by their peers and followers—a rank grounded in respect, honor, and trust, and one that is earned through a lifetime of service and dedication to a cause greater than themselves.

The highest rank in the Army currently is General (four stars), but the Army has the capacity, if needed, to bring back the rank of General of the Army (five stars). Therefore, four-star general is the highest rank in the Army and the highest rank in the Army is the chief of staff of the Army, but it can also be the chairman of the joint chiefs if that billet is held by an Army general, which currently, it is not.