Many children grow up with parents in the military. It usually means frequent moves, a parent being gone for long periods of time. And there is the possibility that some day an officer and chaplain might turn up, bearing bad news.
Whether the parent is a Green Beret, constantly deploying to a foreign country on missions they can’t talk about, or someone who pushed papers at a desk in a building at a military installation – they all served, and they all knew that there was some measure of risk. And when the parents pass on, what’s left behind are medals, uniforms, photos, and in some cases, films.
In this clip, Fred Linden discusses the memorabilia left behind by his late father, Navy Lieutenant Commander Frederick “Bud” Linden, of his service during World War II. His dad flew a Consolidated PBY Catalina – one of the famous “Black Cats” that made the life of many Japanese sailors miserable during the fighting in the Pacific.
Linden’s memorabilia included a map showing the route his father took to the theater he served in, as well as medals.
The two rolls of 16mm color film included in the memorabilia collection showed a wide variety of events during his father’s tour, including bombing raids. The film was preserved through the involvement of Film Corps, an outreach organization that seeks to preserve records like Linden’s.
“The stuff – the medals and so forth – is not something he’d care about, but he would love to be able to sit down in front of that movie and point out the names of the guys and what they did and things he remembered about them, what happened at the time with the people he was with,” he says. “That would be the most important thing for him”
Russia’s paratroopers serve in the VDV, or vozdushno-desantnie voiska. Like America’s airborne forces, the Russian VDV is considered elite and recruits soldiers from both within the Russian armed forces and from the civilian population.
But their tactics for doing so can be a little confusing. For instance, they created a commercial where your mom’s ex-boyfriend sings about his clothes every minute or so.
When he’s not doing that, he’s watching large groups of men dance fight against imaginary enemies.
But the Russian paratroopers totally redeem themselves when they hop over fences while shooting their weapons and dash past explosions without turning to look at them.
Weapons expert Vasiliy Sichev told Slon that it’s extremely likely that this is the secret submarine. He told the site:
“It’s impossible to unequivocally say that the picture was really the AC-12, of course, because the project is classified and how the ‘Losharik’ looks is technically unknown. However, photos which were allegedly of ‘Losharik’ surfaced in 2007, 2010, and 2011, and they had a lot of similarities with the one in Top Gear.”
Russia is in the midst of a serious military buildup. Among other things, the Russian military is upgrading its navy and by 2020 is hoping to add at least 16 new nuclear submarines to its Northern and Pacific fleets.
Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.
When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.
Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.
Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.
Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.
3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)
Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.
Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.
4. Beef jerky
High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.
5. “Surplus” gear
Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.
The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.
6. Hard drives (the contents)
Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.
7. Electrical outlets
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks
These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.
8. Lighters and matches
Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.
9. Girl Scout cookies
Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.
The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.
You may know that most veterans can be buried in state and national veterans cemeteries for little or no money, but what about their spouses and other dependents?
Your spouse may be eligible to be buried with you in a veterans cemetery at little or no cost. However, if you and your spouse have divorced and they have remarried, they probably aren’t eligible. Dependent children may also be eligible. Some parents of those killed on active duty may also be eligible.
As always, only veterans with an other-than-dishonorable discharge (and their dependents) qualify for this burial benefit. There are also other restrictions against those found guilty of certain crimes.
Three Phase-1 human clinical trials evaluating an Army-developed Zika purified inactivated virus vaccine, known as a ZPIV, have shown it was safe and well-tolerated in healthy adults and induced a robust immune response. Initial findings from the trials were published early in December in the medical journal “The Lancet.”
Each of the three studies included in the paper was designed to address a unique question about background immunity, vaccine dose or vaccination schedule. A fourth trial with ZPIV is still underway in Puerto Rico, where the population has natural exposure to other viruses in the same family as Zika (flaviviruses), such as dengue.
“It is imperative to develop a vaccine that prevents severe birth defects and other neurologic complications in babies caused by Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, WRAIR’s Director for Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Zika program co-lead and the article’s lead author. “These results give us hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be achievable.”
Across the three trials, a total of 67 healthy adult volunteers (55 vaccine, 12 placebo) received two vaccine injections, four weeks apart. Researchers measured the immune response by monitoring levels of Zika virus-neutralizing antibodies in the blood. More than 90% of volunteers who received the vaccine developed an immune response against Zika.
“Not only is the development of a Zika vaccine a global public health priority, but it is also necessary to protect Service Members and their families,” said Col. Nelson Michael, director of WRAIR’s Military HIV Research Program and Zika program co-lead.
The ZPIV vaccine candidate was developed as part of the U.S. Department of Defense response to the 2015 outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas. WRAIR researchers conceived the ZPIV vaccine in February 2016 and were able to advance the candidate to a Phase 1 human trial by November of the same year.
“WRAIR has previously steered to licensure a similar vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, a flavivirus in the same family as Zika, which helped speed our vaccine development effort,” said Dr. Leyi Lin, who led one of the trials at WRAIR.
In the volunteers who received the vaccine, neutralizing antibody levels peaked two weeks after they completed the 2-dose vaccine series, and exceeded the threshold established in an earlier study needed to protect monkeys against a Zika virus challenge. Researchers also found that antibodies from vaccinated volunteers protected mice from a Zika virus challenge, providing insight into how this vaccine might prevent Zika infection.
Next steps include evaluating how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts, and the impact of dose, schedule and background immunity. Michael added that, “Army researchers are part of integrated, strategic US Government effort to develop a vaccine to protect against Zika.”
The ZPIV program is led by Col. Michael and Dr. Modjarrad. The principal investigators at each of the study sites were Dr. Leyi Lin at WRAIR, Dr. Sarah L. George at SLU and Dr. Kathryn E. Stephenson at BIDMC. The sponsor of the investigational new drug application for two of the studies (WRAIR and SLU) is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The BIDMC study is investigator-sponsored by Dr. Kathryn Stephenson.
Over the past few days, you’ve been collecting exit signatures for your check-out sheet, and low and behold, you’re almost home. The process has been relatively straightforward up until this point.
The last item you need to get signed off is from the Central Issue Facility, or supply, where you need to check in all of your gear. Supply is one of the last stops a service member makes before obtaining their official DD-214.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Wrong. If one aspect of your gear is not check-in ready, integrating back into civilian population will be delayed.
So check out our list of what it typically takes to check in your gear and move on with your life.
(This is based on many true stories)
1. What it looks like when you’re on your way to the central issue on a Friday afternoon.
Oh, come on. (Images via Giphy)
2.When you walk inside and all you see are other troops waiting in a long a** line.
There’s too many to count. (Images via Giphy)
3. To add insult to injury, everyone who works there looks slow and grumpy.
Why do I hate life? (Images via Giphy)
4. After waiting what felt like an eternity, you finally haul your heavy gear over to the counter and begin the checkout process.
So heavy. (Images via Giphy)
5. You make it to the counter, and just as your morale has been boosted, you realized you’re at the slowest worker’s section.
Please, hurry the f*ck up! (Images via Giphy)
6. The clerk starts to review all your gear, pulling everything out piece-by-piece — most of which you never used.
And we mean most things. (Images via Giphy)
7. After completing the inventory, the clerk finds an issue with your almost squared away paperwork. All of your gear is clean enough to pass, but there’s a missing signature.
No way freakin’ way. (Images via Giphy)
8. Your superior officer’s signature is missing for an expensive piece of gear which got destroyed while you were deployed. The clerk informs you that you can either pay for it yourself or get the signature before you can get out of the military.
You can’t believe what you’re hearing.
I ain’t paying for sh*t. (Images via Giphy)
9. You speed back to your company HQ to find your CO.
Pedal to the metal. (Images via Giphy)
10. You dash into the HQ in search of the man or woman who can set you free.
Where are they? (Images via Giphy)
11. You find your superior, he or she signs the paperwork and then your emotions take over.
This may be wrong but it feels right. (Images via Giphy)
12. Now that you got your signature, it’s time to head back to central issue.
Almost to the finish line. (Images via Giphy)
13. You get back the central issue building and attempt to eyeball the person who helped you earlier to avoid waiting in line again.
One soldier was killed and seven others were injured during training Thursday on Fort Bragg.
Staff Sgt. Alexander P. Dalida, 32, of Dunstable, Massachusetts, died during the demolition training that was part of the Special Forces Qualification Course, according to U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The cause of death is under investigation.
Dalida was a student in the Special Forces Engineer Course and was assigned to 1st Special Warfare Training Group at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
A spokesman for USASOC said the others injured in the training were students and cadre at the Special Warfare Center and School, which trains the Army’s Special Forces, civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers.
He said the soldiers were transported by air and ground to Womack Army Medical Center for care.
Womack is one of the Army’s largest hospitals and has the busiest emergency department in the force. Its staff regularly trains to handle so-called mass casualty events that could otherwise sow problems when numerous injured soldiers are brought into the hospital at one time.
Lt. Col. Rob Bockholt, the USASOC spokesman, said officials were not ready to comment on what might have caused the injuries or the severity of the other injuries.
In a statement, leaders within the Special Warfare Center and School said their thoughts and prayers were with Dalida’s family and friends.
“Our primary focus right now is to care for his loved ones,” said Col. Michael Kornburger, commander of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group. “We will honor Staff Sgt. Dalida and help his family in their time of need.”
“The special operations community is a close-knit family,” added Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag, the commanding general of the Special Warfare Center and School. “At the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, we consider every student who enters our institution a part of our SWCS family. Staff Sgt. Dalida’s death is a reminder that a soldier’s job is inherently dangerous.”
The Special Forces Qualification Course, which can last up to two years, is the process by which soldiers train to become Special Forces soldiers, colloquially known as Green Berets. Officials have previously said fewer than one in eight soldiers who try make it through the grueling course, which mostly takes place on Fort Bragg, nearby Camp Mackall and surrounding training areas.
Dalida had served in the Army for 11 years, officials said. He enlisted in September 2006 and trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Prior to attending Special Forces Assessment and Selection, officials said he served in aviation units.
Dalida’s awards and decorations include the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with one oak-leaf cluster, Army Achievement Medal with oak-leaf cluster, three Army Good Conduct medals, the Combat Action Badge, Aviation Badge, Parachutist’s Badge and Air Assault Badge.
In response to the incident, several elected leaders expressed sympathies for those injured.
“Please join Susan and I in praying for the families and soldiers injured today,” tweeted North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis.
Sen. Richard Burr said he also was praying for the soldiers and would follow news of the injuries closely.
Gov. Roy Cooper made similar remarks, also on Twitter.
And Rep. Richard Hudson, whose district includes Fort Bragg, said he also would monitor the situation.
“Renee and I are sorry to hear about today’s training accident at Fort Bragg,” Hudson said in a statement. “We will continue to pray for the soldiers who were injured and their families.”
The injuries are the latest in a string of unrelated incidents during military training.
On Tuesday, a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, died during medical evacuation hoist training, according to officials.
And on Wednesday, 15 Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, were injured when their amphibious vehicle caught fire during a training exercise. Eight of the Marines were taken to a burn center in nearby San Diego, officials said. Three were listed in critical condition as of Wednesday afternoon and five were in serious condition.
All three incidents are under investigation.
On Thursday, Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the recent deaths and injuries were a “constant reminder of the daily dangers faced by service members as they prepare to defend our nation abroad.”
“In the past few months, we have seen far too many reports of death and injury to service members due to accidents during training,” McCain said. “Four times as many service members died during routine training in the last three years than in combat. These incidents demonstrate the current over-taxed state of our military both at home and overseas, and the failure of Congress and the president to give our troops the training, resources and equipment they need.”
The Fort Bragg incident is believed to be one of the largest training accidents outside of airborne operations in recent years for the nation’s most populous military installation.
In 2014, one soldier was killed and seven others were injured during an artillery training exercise. Other mass casualty incidents on post since that time have been related to motor vehicle wrecks or parachute jumps.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Israel’s military launched a barrage of missile strikes on Iranian targets based in Syria early May 10, 2018, a massive retaliation in an ongoing conflict between the two bitter enemies.
The Israeli Defense Forces claimed fighter jets took down “dozens” of Iranian military targets in Syria overnight on May 10, 2018. The IDF spokeman’s unit told Israel’s Channel 10 News more than 50 targets were hit.
The IDF included an animated video of how the military act unfolded, featuring footage reportedly from the strike.
“This Iranian aggression is another proof of the intentions behind the establishment of the Iranian regime in Syria and the threat it poses to Israel and regional stability,” it said.
The IDF said it would “not allow the Iranian threat to establish itself in Syria” and that it would hold the Assad regime accountable for the escalation of violence within its borders.
The official IDF spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, told Channel 10 that Israeli airstrikes had hit Iranian intelligence facilities, logistic headquarters, observation posts, weapon-storage facilities, and a vehicle used to launch rockets into Israeli territory.
Manelis said the strike was the largest attack carried out by Israeli in Syria since the two signed an agreement following the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
It is also the first time Israel directly pointed blame at Iran for firing into Israeli territory.
Israel claimed that the Iranian strikes on its territory caused no injuries or damage. It said four missiles had been intercepted by the Iron Dome rocket-defense system while others fell into Syrian territory.
Manelis told Haaretz, “We were prepared and we sum up this night as a success despite the fact that it is still not over.”
He said Israel was not seeking escalation but that its forces were “prepared for any scenario.” He added that Israel “hit hard at Iranian infrastructure” that it claims Iran has been building up for over a year.
Manelis posted a photo on his personal Facebook account, illustrating Israel’s airstrikes at several locations in Syria, including several near Israel’s capital of Damascus.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported, “The Syrian air defenses are confronting a new wave of Israeli aggression rockets and downing them one after the other.”
SANA also posted video of what it reported to be Syrian air defenses shooting down Israeli missiles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In what many have defined as an upset victory, the United States Air Force announced the selection of the MH-139, to replace its fleet of UH-1N “Huey” helicopters. A 375M USD firm-fixed-price contract for the non-developmental item integration of four aircraft was awarded on Sept. 14, 2018. If all options are exercised the programme is valued at $2.4 billion for up to 84 helicopters, training devices, and associated support equipment until 2031.
The new choppers, based on the Leonardo AW139 and offered by Boeing as prime contractor, are expected to reach the IOC (initial operational capability) in 2021 (this is what Leonardo claims in its press release even though it appears a bit optimistic considered that the Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada, both offering UH-60 Black Hawk variants, may contest the award) when they will replace the old Huey taking over the role of protecting the America’s ICBM missile silos as well as VIP transportation and utility tasks.
(Boeing / Leonardo)
The MH-139 leverages the market-leading Leonardo AW139 baseline, a modern, non-developmental, multi-mission helicopter that is in service with 270 governments, militaries and companies across the world. According to Leonardo, over 900 AW139s are already in service with 260 assembled and delivered from Philadelphia, where the U.S. Air Force’s MH-139 will be assembled.
The HH-139A also features a secure communications suite, integrated defensive aids suite, hoist, search light, wire cutters, cargo hook, loudspeaker system, and emergency floatation gear and any other equipment required to perform “convetional” search and rescue, as well as Combat SAR missions.
The Italian Air Force helicopter can do also something else. Since they can carry a bambi bucket they can perform aerial firefighting activity. Beginning in 2018, the Italian HH-139A belonging to the 82° Centro CSAR (Combat SAR Center) from Trapani have carried out firefighting tasks in Sicily.
Feature image: Boeing MH-139.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Five years ago, Amazon committed to employing 25,000 military spouses and veterans in the United States by 2021. As of February 2021, they employ over 40,000. One military spouse is helping them go even further.
Beth Conlin is the Senior Program Manager for Military Spouses for Amazon. It isn’t just a job for her — it’s more personal than that. It’s a calling. As the spouse to Army Lieutenant Colonel Shaun Conlin, the employment struggle has been a part of her life for a very long time.
“Early in my career, I would remove my wedding ring and remove locations from my resume. I’d say he [my husband] worked in logistics,” Conlin said with a laugh. “For me, my career is the thing that drives me….When we moved to Germany in 2013 and I had to quit due to SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement] I was just dumbfounded. How could an external factor that had nothing to do with what I did take away my economic opportunity, my professional development and a big part of my identity?”
This experience led Conlin to advocate for all military spouses. She eventually created a small business that essentially developed and built employment opportunities for military spouses. Five years later, she was back in the states and approached Blue Star Families to partner in effort to support the issue. They offered her a job instead.
She soon recognized how pivotal her new role at BSF was. “It was the first time that it hit me that it mattered. We PCSed from DC to Georgia and I didn’t have to quit,” Conlin explained.
Her continued engagement with the civilian and military change makers led to her employment with Amazon in 2020. “Through a series of my own advocacy work and nonprofit work, I met my now-boss at a working group… I was talking about military spouses and the employment I had built and he was like, ‘Wait a minute, can you come do that at Amazon?’” Conlin shared.
Her role within the global product and services company is extensive. “I build programs to connect military spouses to employment and I also build educational programs internally to help our recruiters and hiring managers understand the value of hiring military spouses,” Conlin explained. She also developed the platform which allows military spouse employees to flag their profile when they have orders for an upcoming PCS, allowing the internal hiring teams to find new roles for the spouse at the new duty station.
Conlin also does a lot of work within community engagement, working alongside prominent nonprofit organizations serving the military community. She frequently briefs the White House and Department of Defense on military spouse employment needs and concerns. “The conversation is definitely shifting. Companies now encourage you to self-identify as a military spouse,” Conlin said.
When she was asked to name her favorite part about working for Amazon, it was too hard to pick just one. “Amazon encourages you to fail fast. They want you to be curious, creative and innovative when you solve problems. If you’ve gotten it wrong, find out quickly and move on. That allows me to experiment with a variety of solutions,” Conlin explained. She also loves the customer obsession Amazon stands behind and the collective support and family vibe the company embodies every day.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in 2020, military spouses were the foundation of resiliency for Amazon as a whole. “They put their collective arms around the rest of Amazon and said, ‘We know how to thrive in uncertainty. Just follow us,” Conlin shared. The value we add is intentionally recognized by what we bring to the workforce.”
May 7, 2021 is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. At Amazon, they’ve been celebrating all week long. The company focused on the intersectionality of military spouses, creating an internal campaign called, “What’s your and?”
“A lot of us are military spouses and parents, and, and, and,” Conlin explained. “It was incredible to openly share what that means for us — especially after hiding that for so long.”
Conlin was honest in saying she could never have imagined her journey of tackling military spouse employment unfolding the way it did. It’s an evolution she’s proud of, and with her new role deep in the trenches of the issue for Amazon, she’s grateful. “It is more than just a job, it is a problem that is solvable and it is really really inspiring to be with a company that believes it’s solvable too.”
Storm Bowen was wounded in combat in 2007, and he spent a long time in the hospital. And during that time he discovered the simple pleasure of smoking a cigar. At that point Cigars for Warriors was born.
Cigars for Warriors is a nonprofit charity whose sole mission is to send premium cigars and accessories to the men and women of the U.S. military serving in combat zones, no matter where they are. Requests are made online, and each package comes with cigars, cutters, and literature.
“I’m retired and I have a lot of free time on my hands,” he says. “With cigars, there is so much to learn and experience and it’s easy to get excited.”
Bowen has a lot to be excited about. While recovering from his injuries, he experienced cigar culture for the first time. His brother-in-law took him to get a cigar and share a smoke. He quickly became an aficionado.
“If you’ve never smoked one before and try to pretend you can, it’s the worst thing you can do,” Bowen adds. “My first time, I went for the three dollar one, trying to save money, and it wasn’t a good idea. You just don’t enjoy it properly.”
True to this creed, there are no dog rockets in a Cigars for Warriors care package. Bowen and Cigars for Warriors will only send premium cigars to the troops abroad. Donations in cash defer the cost of purchasing new, high-quality tobacco or for shipping them overseas. Bowen estimates 98 percent of money collected goes to getting the cigars to the troops, while the remaining is used for promotion.
“This really is a group effort,” he explains. “When we first started in 2012, I tried to get a grip on a real number for how many we might be able to send that year. When I set it to 800, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. By the end of the year, we had shipped 92,000.”
Cigars are the number one item requested by deployed troops and Cigars for Warriors is happy to oblige. They use cigar and tobacconist shops as collection points and volunteers to manage the collecting.
“There are many well-organized cigar clubs in combat zones,” Bowen says. “All of us are volunteers and for something so small, it’s having a much bigger impact than we expected. For a lot of these guys, it’s like a slice of home.”
Some of the volunteers working with Bowen are recipients of cigars themselves.
“It’s special to these guys,” Bowen remarks. “We get instant feedback in some cases. They send us photos we call ‘stogie smiles.’ That just fills your tank and gets you going for days.”
To learn more about, donate to, or request cigars from Cigars for Warriors visit http://cigarsforwarriors.org/
In early October 2018, a US Navy destroyer sailed close to Chinese-occupied territory in the area, a freedom-of-navigation exercise meant in part to contest Beijing’s expansive claims.
During that exercise, a Chinese destroyer approached the US ship — reportedly as close as 45 feet — in what Navy officials called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.”
“The tension is escalating, and that could prove to be dangerous to both sides,” a senior US official told Reuters on Sept. 30, 2018, after China canceled a meeting between its officials and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — the second senior-level meeting called off in a week.
The encounter between the US and Chinese ships took place near the Spratly Islands, at the southern end of the South China Sea. Farther north, at Scarborough Shoal, the US, the Philippines, and China have already butted heads, and their long-standing dispute there could quickly escalate.
The Philippines took over Scarborough after its independence in 1946. But in 2012, after a stand-off with the Philippines, China took de facto control of the shoal, blocking Filipino fishermen from entering.
Map showing territory claimed by the Philippines, including internal waters, territorial sea, international treaty limits, and exclusive economic zone.
Chinese control of Scarborough — about 130 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon and about 400 miles from China’s Hainan Island — is an ongoing concern for the Philippines and the US.
Given the shoal’s proximity to the Luzon, if “China puts air-defense missiles and surface-to-surface missiles there, like they have at other South China Sea islands, they could reach the Philippines,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in late August 2018.
That would be “the most direct sort of pushback on the Philippines’ attempt to assert control over Scarborough Shoal,” said Clark, a former US Navy officer.
Beyond a challenge to Manila, a military presence on Scarborough could give China more leverage throughout the South China Sea.
Scarborough would be one point in a triangle edged by the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, both of which already house Chinese military outposts.
While China can use shore-based assets in the air-defense identification zone it declared over the East China Sea in 2013, the eastern fringe of the South China Sea is out of range for that, Clark said.
“So their thought is, the Chinese would really like to develop Scarborough Shoal and put a radar on it so they can start enforcing an ADIZ, and that would allow them to kind of complete their argument that they have control and oversight over the South China Sea,” Clark said.
Given Scarborough’s proximity to bases in the Philippines and the country’s capital, Manila, as well as to Taiwan, a presence there would extend China’s intelligence-gathering ability and maritime-domain awareness, said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“But above and beyond the military implications … China has a political interest in establishing control over all the waters and airspace within the nine-dash line, in both peace and war,” Poling said in an email, referring to the boundary of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.
‘What is our red line?’
After 2012, Manila took its case to the Permanent Court for Arbitration at The Hague, which ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, rejecting China’s claims and finding that Beijing had interfered with Philippine rights in its exclusive economic zone, including at Scarborough. (EEZs can extend 230 miles from a country’s coast.)
Ahead of that ruling, the US detected signs China was getting ready to reclaim land at the shoal, and then-President Barack Obama reportedly warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of serious consequences for doing so, which was followed by China withdrawing its ships from the area.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
That warning was followed by increased Pentagon activity in the region, including flying A-10 Thunderbolts, which are ground-attack aircraft, near Scarborough a month later.
Tensions between China and Philippines eased after the ruling was issued, however, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in July 2016, pursued rapprochement.
The Philippines said in February 2017 that it expected China to try to build on the reef, which Manila called “unacceptable.” The following month, Chinese authorities removed comments by an official about building on Scarborough from state-backed media, raising questions about Beijing’s plans.
More recently, the Philippines warned China of its limits at Scarborough.
“What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal],” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in May 2018.
Cayetano said the other two red lines were Chinese action against Philippine troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys and the unilateral exploration of natural resources in the area. He said China had been made aware of the Philippine position and that Beijing had its own “red line” for the area.
In July 2018, the acting chief justice of the Philippine supreme court, Antonio Carpio, said Manila should ask the US make Scarborough an “official red line,” requesting its recognition as Philippine territory under the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which obligates each to come to the aid of the other in case of attack.
“Duterte himself has reportedly said that Chinese construction of a permanent facility at Scarborough would be a red line for the Philippines,” Poling said.
The Philippines’ “one real option” to try to prevent Chinese construction on Scarborough would be to invoke that defense treaty, Poling said.
President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 2016.
It’s not clear if the treaty applies to the shoal, Poling added, “but the treaty definitely does apply to an attack on Filipino armed forces or ships anywhere in the Pacific.”
“So Manila would probably need to send Navy or Coast Guard ships to interfere with any work China attempted at Scarborough … and then call for US intervention should China use force.”
That could cause China to back off, as Obama’s warning in 2016 did, Poling said.
While China has pulled back from previous attempts to build on the shoal, “they’ve got ships floating around the area just waiting for the chance,” Clark said in late August 2018. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if China tries to restart that project in the next year to … gauge what the US reaction is and see if they can get away with it.”
That would almost certainly force the hand of the US and the Philippines.
“If China’s able to start building an island there and put systems on it, and the Philippines doesn’t resist … all bets are off,” Clark said. “China feels emboldened to say the South China Sea is essentially a Chinese area.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.