Army Supply Julian Dates: What it is and How it Works

Let’s take a few minutes and talk about the Army Supply Julian Dates.

While the Army has changed in many ways with technological advances, one thing that has not changed in a long period of time is the use of Julian Dates in Army supply.

There is a good reason that the Army uses Julian Dates. While it can be a confusing system, it is easier. I compare it to the American versus European ways of measuring.

While we Americans normally use standard measurements (inch, foot, mile, etc…), the Europeans use the metric form of measuring. Until I really learned metric measurement, I thought it was stupid and hard.

I worked in a metal fabrication shop as a break press operator and the new press that was purchased operated on the metric system and I discovered I could get a better accuracy using the metric way. I realized it was actually easier than our standard system, and that is why I am keeping an open mind to Julian Dates.

In the paragraphs below we will take a closer look at the Army Supply Julian Dates.

What Are The Army Supply Julian Dates?

The calendar that we as civilians use today is called the Gregorian calendar. This system we use today was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Before the Gregorian calendar, humans used the Julian calendar which was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC.

While there is not a huge difference in the amount of time between the Julian and the Gregorian calendars, the primary difference is the use of letters or just numbers.

Without delving to deep in the differences between the calendars, I will just say that the military does recognize the Gregorian calendar in almost everything except Army supply.

Why The Army Uses Julian Dates

In Army supply, it just comes down to simplicity and ease to alleviate the possibility of errors. Julian Dates are all on a number basis. Yes, humans can also use numbers when showing dates off the Gregorian calendar, but the amount of numbers is more than the Julian Date system.

Yes, the Army could change their system to a Gregorian date system, but the change would be costly, and simply does not make sense. The Julian Date system works, and it seems the Army is using a very old and wise idea in “If it works, don’t fix it!”

Essentially, Julian Dates are a continuous count of days since Caesar instituted this calendar. This makes it easier for all software the Army uses to easily count and adjust.

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How the Army Supply Julian Dates Work

The common question comes when a person may be looking for a manufacture date or an expiration date on an item. Until just recently, many large corporations used Julian Dates for this, but because consumers wanted to have it their way, corporations switched to the use of Gregorian Dates.

The Army didn’t switch. Yes, those MREs do have dates. If you get an MRE and look at the bottom and see a number stamped that says 3229, the first number stands for the year, and the last numbers mean the day. So, that would be August 16th, 2013; or it could be August 16th, 2003; or even 1993, 1983, 1973, etc…

The Army Julian Date system only works on 10 year lee-ways. Because the first number is only one number, it has to be on a 10 year basis. This system still works just fine in the Army’s supply system.

While it may seem hard to understand, it really can be quite easy, especially if you have a cheat sheet. I am posting them below so that you can copy and put them in your purse or billfold, or hang them somewhere. One if for regular years and the other is for leap years.

Example Julian Date Calendars

army supply julian dates

Final Thoughts

I hope this post made some sense to you on Julian Dates. It is a cost effective and simple system. It may not seem so right to you now, but once you really study it, it makes sense.

I would love to hear your opinions about Army Supply Julian Dates. Also if you have any added tips on how to remember the system, please help out our readers. Thank you for visiting. Have a great day.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Army Supply Julian Dates: What it is and How it Works”

  1. It took me a while to figure out what you were talking about. The army didn’t want to change? The Gregorian calendar predates the American military, even if you go back to pre-independence. If the army really used the Julian calendar as introduced by Julius Caesar, then it would be skewed from standard dates by 13 days, and in another 77 years, by 14. What the military seems to do is use the Gregorian date, but write it as the year and the day of the year, rather than subdividing it by year, month, and day like is usually done. Somehow that is also called Julian, but it’s not the same thing as Caesar’s calendar. You use the same calendar, but just write the dates differently. It’s like Americans write the fourth of July as 7/4/2023, Europeans as 04-07-2023, and Chinese as 2023 07 04 (maybe?), but we all mean the same day and use the same calendar.

  2. I worked in military communications in the 1960s. As I recall, our DTG went like this: 652451306Z. It could not be duplicated for 100 years. Maybe my memory is wrong. Although a Julian date of five digits instead of four seems to make more sense.

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