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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Zulu Time
July 19, 2007

      Zulu time.  For some people, this will make them think of some tribe in Africa; for others, it will perhaps remind them of a beer commercial.  For those of us in the military, it refers to a standard time zone used across the globe: the Greenwich Meridian, named after Greenwich, England, which it passes through.  It is a constant.

      Here in Afghanistan, we use what is termed “local time,” meaning the time zone for the local area.  The rest of the Army, however, uses Zulu time: the time in Greenwich, which is four and a half hours past the Afghan local time.  This makes coordinating missions with the 508th infantry guys here in Do China a routine math problem every day.

      Suppose, for instance, the 508th want to begin a convoy on Wednesday, and they want to coordinate this with some ABP vehicles to come along.  On Tuesday night, they will give us a time to move out, which is always in Zulu time, their time standard.  0400 Zulu corresponds to 8:30 AM local, which is how I must present it to the ABP, since they are using local time.  This means that I have to add four and a half hours to the Zulu time to get local time, every time.

      It’s become such a headache, I now wear two watches, one on local time, one on Zulu time.  It’s still not easy to figure ahead what a specific time will be in Zulu time, but at least I know what the Zulu time is right now.

      Of course, neither of these correspond to Chicago time, which is what I need to calculate so I don’t call my family at 3:00 in the morning on those occasions when I get to call, but that’s a different issue.  For now, though, it’s bedtime, so it’s time to stop writing.  1800 Zulu, 2230 local – time to go to sleep!

-- Jeff Courter

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
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Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

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