35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again? - We Are The Mighty
popular

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

In January 1986, the country was buzzing with excitement. Seven astronauts were heading to space, including a civilian. An ordinary teacher, Christa McAuliffe, would be the first average Joe in space. The Challenger shuttle had already completed nine successful missions. This one should have been no different. 

The crew of the Challenger shuttle
The crew of the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle.

Tragically, it was. Viewers looked on in horror as steam and fire began streaming from the shuttle just minutes after launch. The Challenger exploded, killing everyone aboard. So what happened, exactly? More importantly, could it happen again? 

By 1986, NASA had plenty of experience with space flight.

NASA announced the first manned, reusable spacecraft in 1976. They named it a space shuttle. Just five years later, they took the Columbia shuttle for a test spin. It went without a hitch. The Challenger came along in 1983, and again the mission went swimmingly. The shuttle went on to make eight more voyages before 1986.

The 10th voyage included something unique: an average high school social studies teacher. 37-year-old Christa McAuliffe won a spot through NASA’s new Teacher in Space initiative, which aimed to motivate students to set their sights on future careers in technology, science, and space flight. As it turns out, the mission may have had the opposite effect.

The Challenger’s 10th expedition should have been a slam dunk.

The mission was intended to launch on January 22nd from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch was pushed back because of bad weather and technical issues. On the 28th, NASA pushed ahead with the launch. Engineers on the project were uneasy. They spoke up, telling their superiors that some of the shuttle’s components weren’t intended to function in cold weather. The rubber O-rings, in particular, were prone to failure at low temps. The Challenger launched anyway. 

After just 73 seconds, the shuttle exploded over hundreds of onlookers. The families of the astronauts on board watched in horror from the ground, while the rest of the country watched it live on the news. The shuttle landed in the ocean, in pieces. Among a crew of seven, there wasn’t a single survivor. 

The challenger shuttle exploding
The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center.

It was an ordinary expedition. And that was the problem. 

The nation was understandably put off by future space travel. President Reagan launched a commission to find the cause of the explosion in hopes of correcting the issue for future space missions. After analysis by a team of experts that included the famous Neil Armstrong, the commission concluded that the engineers were right. The rubber O-rings that were intended to seal the Challenger’s rocket booster had cracked from the cold. Flames were able to escape the booster, damaging a fuel tank and destroying the shuttle’s integrity. 

The company that designed the boosters, Morton Thiokol, was aware of potential issues. Managers at NASA were also aware of the risks, but after several successful missions, they didn’t take them seriously. 

And that was the problem. The mission was so routine, that the details were largely ignored; even details that spelled out the difference between a historic success and a crushing tragedy.

Could another explosion like the Challenger’s happen? Absolutely.

Have we learned from our own hubris? Hopefully. 

After the Challenger explosion, NASA was taken down a few pegs. They spent two years refining their design before launching a new shuttle, the Discovery. That shuttle went on to carry out several successful missions, which included the construction of the International Space Station, or ISI. 

But in 2003, a second shuttle exploded. The Columbia failed to reenter the atmosphere, disintegrating in mid-air. Once again, all seven passengers were killed. Missions resumed in 2005, but in 2011, the space shuttle program was officially ended. The risk of space shuttle travel was simply too high for the potential reward. 

Knowing human beings, and American human beings, in particular, it’s doubtful that our future in space is over. Space shuttles were risky and experimental, but the astronauts on board knew that. Much like the mountaineers who climb Everest or Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight, those who explore space are powerfully driven to do so- no matter the cost. 

While Christa McAuliffe paid the ultimate price, her backup, a fellow educator named Barbara Morgan, made it safely to space and back in 2007. The Challenger disaster taught us that when lives are on the line, there’s no room for arrogance. Just a sliver of impatience can be deadly. Teachers in space taught us to keep trying anyway.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 special benefits reserved for Purple Heart recipients

The Purple Heart is the U.S. military’s oldest medal — but it’s more than just a medal. It’s a symbol of a sacrifice made on behalf of a U.S. troop for his or her unit, mission, and country. It represents a tangible, physical offering — a risk to life or limb. An officer can’t write themselves a Purple Heart package with some fancy wordplay. To get one, a military member must be wounded or killed in action against an enemy. There’s a reason people, veteran and civilian alike, take notice when they see it — it always means something.

So it’s nice to know that those who made such a sacrifice get a little bit extra.


35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

President George W. Bush awards a Purple Heart medal and citation to U.S. Navy sailor Jefferson Talicuran of Chula Vista, California, on Thursday, July 3, 2008, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

1. Medical Priority Upgrades at the VA

The VA prioritizes veterans into eight categories, ranging from Group 1, those with a 50-percent military disability rating or higher, and Group 8, veterans who have no service-connected conditions and are ineligible for medical care. A Purple Heart recipient will automatically be placed in at least Group 3, so they’re never responsible for a copay for medical treatment.

2. The Forever GI Bill

In order to qualify for GI Bill benefits, most troops must serve at least 36 months on active duty. Purple Heart recipients will get full benefits no matter how long they spent on active duty — and they get the full benefits offered in the bill.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

President Barack Obama awards Sgt. James N. Rowland, a Rohnert, Calif. native, the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. The ceremony was held in Al-Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq on Apr. 7, 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Millett)

3. Preferential hiring in government jobs

When applying for a federal government job, all honorably discharged veterans who served active duty get hiring preference over non-veterans. Vets get five-point preference if they served during a war, served during a campaign for which a campaign medal was created, or served during certain periods or for certain lengths of time.

Ten-point preference is given to veterans who have a service-connected disability — including Purple Heart recipients.

4. Commissary and MWR access

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act makes Purple Heart recipients eligible for on-base shopping and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation area use starting in 2020.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

President Trump shakes hands with U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, after awarding him with a Purple Heart, with Tammy Barrientos at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Apr. 22, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland.

(CBS News)

5. State Benefits

Many states offer some sort of extra benefit to Purple Heart recipients. In Arizona, in-state university tuition can be waived for Purple Heart recipients. In South Carolina, children of Purple Heart recipients are eligible for free in-state university tuition. Check with your state VA to be sure — individual states offer property and income tax breaks that you may never hear about in a national discussion.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US, Canadian fighters intercept Russian spy planes north of Alaska

Two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft lingered in U.S.-Canadian air defense space Monday for hours after being intercepted by fighter jets, defense officials said.


The two Russian planes were intercepted by U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s, a version of the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, officials said in a release.

The ADIZ surrounds the United States and Canada, stretching west of Alaska to cover the Semichi Islands, south of Russia. It’s jointly defended by both countries, and foreign aircraft are not permitted to fly alone in ADIZ airspace without authorization.

The F-22s and CF-18s were supported by U.S. KC-135 Stratotanker refueler and E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft, officials said.

“[North American Aerospace Defense Command] fighter aircraft escorted the Tu-142s for the duration of their time in the ADIZ,” officials said. “The Russian aircraft remained in international airspace over the Beaufort Sea, and came as close as 50 nautical miles to the Alaskan coast. The Russian aircraft did not enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace.”

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

Officials did not say that the Russian planes acted unprofessionally in the space or otherwise presented a threat.

“NORAD continues to operate in the Arctic across multiple domains,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, NORAD commander, said in a statement. “As we continue to conduct exercises and operations in the north, we are driven by a single unyielding priority: defending the homelands.”

Monday’s episode is similar to one in August 2019, when two Tu-142s entered the ADIZ and were tracked electronically by NORAD early warning system radars. No aircraft intercept was made in that case, however.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the West’s new plan to counter Chinese influence

The US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand want to use economic initiatives and other elements of soft power to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia and Oceania, according to an Asia Times report.

Leaders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — which, along with the US, make up the Five Eyes defense partnership — have reportedly agreed to expand aid, trade, and diplomatic relationships in the region in response to Beijing’s inroads there, which includes aid and investment in infrastructure projects.


China’s growing economic relationships — many of which come as part of its expansive One Belt One Road initiative — are a source of concern for Western countries and others in the Asia-Pacific region.

India, for example, has expressed concern with Chinese partnerships with countries like Pakistan, the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.

China has lavished aid on the town of Gwadar, Pakistan, the site of a commercial deep-water port that the US and India worry could one day host Chinese naval ships. Early 2018 tensions between New Delhi and Beijing briefly rose over the Maldives, where the pro-China government’s declaration of emergency spurred calls from the opposition for Indian intervention.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modiu00a0with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sri Lanka has taken on huge debts to China but is struggling to pay them back. The government’s decision to lease the port of Hambantota and land around it to Beijing in December 2017, raised ire in India, which fears it could be used by China to establish a military presence in the Indian Ocean. In what may have been a counter to China’s Hambantota lease, India signed a 40-year lease for a virtually unused airport nearby.

Similar dynamics have played out in the Pacific. While many of the countries there are tiny and sparsely populated, their vast exclusive economic zones cover much of the Pacific.

After a 2006 coup in Fiji, which prompted sanctions from Australia and New Zealand, Beijing became a key source of aid for Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. China also funded a fish-canning facility in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor in the region, on the condition Chinese companies did the construction. A Chinese firm also got permission and concessions to set up a fish farm in French Polynesia, after Beijing gave aid and subsidies to the government there. (Chinese fishing vessels trawling the region are also suspected of gathering intelligence.)

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?
People’s Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler)

More recently, Australian media reported that the governments of China and Vanuatu had discussed establishing a Chinese military presence in the latter country, an island nation northeast of Australia.

While China has made investments in Vanuatu, Australian media said there had been no formal agreements, and both governments denied such talks had taken place. (Other observers suggested Vanuatu and others in the region may be trying to play the West and China off each other.)

At present, China has only one military base abroad, located in Djibouti. While Beijing refers to it as a “logistics facility,” it is still cause for concern. A senior US military official said it posed “very significant operational security concerns.”

The Vanuatu report, and others like it, fuel concerns China is trying to leverage financial ties for more advantageous positions in the region.

This effort has been called “debt-trap diplomacy.” US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has described it as “weaponizing capital.” IMF chief Christine Legarde has cautionedChina and countries doing business with it about the potential for mounting debts.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?
US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales)

Between 2006 and mid-2016, Beijing committed more than $1.7 billion in aid to projects in the Pacific.

That is less than the $9 billion committed by Western countries, led by Australia, over the same period, but aid from Beijing often comes without the transparency and accountability stipulations that accompany Western aid.

The Five Eyes countries’ efforts to counter China in the Pacific will include military surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, according to Asia Times. But it will include soft-power elements, like British Crown Prince Charles’ visit to Vanuatu in early April 2018. UK officials have also said their government would ramp up aid, trade, and diplomatic relations with countries in the region.

Japan has increased efforts counter China’s financial outreach by increasing its own international partnerships and investments — including in both Sri Lanka and Vanuatu. Australia and New Zealand have both expressed interest in doing the same, but, according to Asia Times, their decisions to reduce aid commitments may hinder efforts to curry favor with their neighbors.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Folds of Honor helps Gold Star children with educational needs

Folds of Honor honors the sacrifice of military members by providing their loved ones with access to education.

Kelli Campbell lost her husband, Marine Maj. Shawn Campbell, in a military helicopter crash in 2016. At the time, their children were 11, 9, 6, and 2. The family had to move out of their base home in Hawaii, losing connections built within the military community that Campbell was a part of for 15 years. Their lives changed overnight.


When the family temporarily moved into her parents’ house, Campbell says she felt “set adrift, no longer able to make decisions for herself.” She had always homeschooled their children in the Classical Christian method, but she was unable to continue without her husband as her homeschool partner.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

(Military Families Magazine)

Placing her children in public school would require them to attend schools at several different locations. They would be thrown into new classes in the middle of the year when they had no prior experience attending school in a classroom. Then Campbell heard about Folds of Honor.

Folds of Honor helps Gold Star children like, the Campbells, find the education they need

“I was sitting on my parents’ floor, surrounded by library books and all the kids. I was panicking about school and their future and wondering how to move forward. My mom walked in and had gotten a phone call from a Classical Christian school who was giving my children an opportunity to attend and just be in class. My friend who had connected us to the school found Folds of Honor, called them that day and made it possible for my kids to enroll. That was our first step into this new life. I was handed not just education, but a community,” she said.

Folds of Honor was established in 2007 to support the education of children who lost a parent in military service. Lt. Col. Daniel Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot and a PGA golf pro, was traveling on a commercial flight when he observed the body of Army Cpl. Brock Bucklin being returned to his widow and son. Rooney and his wife Jackie were moved to help the Bucklin family, so they organized a golf tournament and raised ,000. He then asked the PGA to invite golfers to contribute id=”listicle-2647631995″ on a round of golf during Labor Day weekend. In one weekend, they raised id=”listicle-2647631995″ million.

Last year, Folds of Honor awarded 4,500 scholarships to military families, providing million in educational support.

Ben Leslie, Executive Vice President at Folds of Honor, says the organization has always remained focused on its mission of educational assistance.

“We believe it is our duty and honor to provide generational assistance for Gold Star children to go to private schools. A lot of families may struggle to find employment, or they may be stuck living in neighborhoods with lousy public schools. We believe in teaching people how to fish: If you give them an opportunity to learn, they will be able to teach their own kids and have new opportunities,” Leslie said.

For the Campbell kids, Folds of Honor filled an important gap. Campbell says Folds of Honor gave her a piece of freedom after her husband’s death.

“There is very little federal assistance for young children’s education. As soon as my husband died, everyone talked to me about college scholarships for the kids. It was a great blessing, but I didn’t need that yet, because I had a two-year-old in diapers,” she said.

“Honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy”

Campbell, who now works for Folds of Honor, says it is equally important that the organization shares the names and stories of fallen service members.

“Their motto is, ‘honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy.’ They honor them by sharing their stories and saying their names. That is huge for these kids. It isn’t easy to share, but I do it to help other families,” she explained.

Campbell choked up as she shared her husband’s legacy.

“Shawn loved people so well. The day he said goodbye to us, he prayed for our family, that we would love each other well. His favorite days were the ones when he interacted with younger Marines and was a leader to them,” she said.

A portion of Red Gold ketchup sales to be given to Folds of Honor

Folds of Honor has partnered with the company Red Gold to support military families in a creative way. This year, a new red, white and blue ketchup bottle from Red Gold is on store shelves. Not only does this increase awareness of the Folds of Honor mission, but a portion of proceeds will be donated to the military family scholarship funds.

Leslie explains that it is a natural fit for both organizations.

“Red Gold is grown and made in America, as a 4th generation American company. Red Gold’s commitment to helping and honoring our military is apparent. The bottle stands out on the shelves, and you can buy something that was made in America and supports military families.”

Campbell hopes that the partnership will drive attention to the Folds of Honor mission and the service member stories they highlight. Even though the bottles and single-use packets will be sold nationwide in chains like Costco, Sam’s Club, and Albertson’s, Campbell is most excited that it will be stocked in commissaries, because military families know what the folded flag means.

“That folded flag has so much weight to it: they say it only weighs 2 pounds, but it feels like much more to carry. Red Gold is coming along and helping families carry that weight.”

Visit https://www.foldsofhonor.org to learn more about Folds of Honor and how you can support its programs.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

How to cut weight in a borderline safe way

Dramatic and quick weight loss is never a great idea. The long game dietary intervention alternative is always a better option. That being said, service members have a height and weight requirement that they must meet yearly.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to lose those last few pounds quickly, here’s how to do it in a safe way. This method has nothing to do with those fat burners that have zero efficacy and that usually just induce fever-like symptoms in order to “burn” fat.


WARNING: This protocol, although safer than other methods, is still risky. Only attempt this if you have an actual reason to and with someone closely monitoring your progress. *This is not medical advice. I take no responsibility for any potential adverse effects.* In fact, I recommend you don’t do this. This article is just to show a safer method of cutting weight than individuals typically conduct.

For that dietary intervention alternative, check out The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide in my Free Resources Vault, where I lay out the process in a step by step easy to follow protocol.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

The name of the game is water manipulation.

(Photo by Cpl. Anthony Leite)

What you’ll be manipulating

Water intake: You’re over half water. By reducing the amount of water you drink, you are inherently reducing your weight. The other two factors that you’ll be manipulating are simply ways for you to reduce your water retention. More on why you should be drinking water here.

Carbohydrate intake: Every gram of stored carbohydrate stores an additional 3-4 grams of water. This is why the word hydrate is included in the word carbohydrate. When you eat a higher carb diet, you may feel that you look softer, it’s because you’re holding on to more water. The extra water retention makes you look less cut in general.

Sodium intake: Electrolytes transport electrical signals throughout our body, it’s how we work. When you manipulate your intake of electrolytes, especially sodium, you can trick your body into excreting more of them than usual, which will, in turn, expel more water and help reduce your weight.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

The process starts 8 days before your weigh-in.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Burrell Parmer, Navy Recruiting District San Antonio Public Affairs/Released)

The protocol

GET ACCESS TO THE PROTOCOL IN A STEP BY STEP GUIDE IN MY FREE RESOURCES VAULT HERE!

8 days prior:

  • Double water intake- This teaches your body to pee more. You’re training your body to excrete more and retain less
  • Increase sodium intake- Eat as much sodium as you can with your food and even in your water. This will teach your body to excrete more sodium than usual and in turn, more water even when you start to cut sodium intake.

6 days prior:

  • Cut water intake back to normal- At this point, you’ll still be peeing more than usual and will start to excrete more than you’re taking in.
  • Lower carb intake to 50-100 grams per day- Fewer carbs in your diet will create a deficit and get rid of some of those water storage spots in your body.
  • Decrease sodium intake (get rid of all extra salt in your diet)- You’ll continue to excrete more electrolytes than you’re taking in.

5 days prior

  • Cut water intake in half- Even less water, this continues your deficit.
  • Keep carb intake low
  • Keep sodium intake low

3 days prior

  • Cut water intake in half again- Now you’re getting very low on fluid intake. Don’t push yourself physically. Your primary physical stress is coming from this fluid deficit.
  • Keep carb intake low
  • Keep sodium intake low
  • Hit the sauna for 15-20 minutes- Start sweating out anything extra that isn’t leaving you naturally

2 days prior

  • Cut water intake in half again- Pay close attention to how you feel and don’t do anything dramatic.
  • Keep carbs low
  • Keep sodium low
  • Hit the sauna 2x for 15-20 minutes- Have someone with you. You don’t want to pass out in the sauna

Day of weigh-in prior to weigh-in

  • No water
  • Carb intake stays low
  • Sodium intake stays low
  • Eat 1-2 very small meals prior to weigh-in
  • Use sauna if necessary

Day of weigh-in and post weigh-in

  • Start drinking water immediately (no more than 50 oz per hour with meals)
  • Continue until your body weight is back to normal
35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

​A shiny trophy may be a great reason to cut weight. Make sure you don’t cut so hard that you can’t perform though.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Hamlin, 2d Cavalry Regiment)

This is a protocol very similar to what professional fighters and other weight-class athletes use to cut weight prior to a fight. Those individuals have coaches and medical professionals at their disposal to help monitor and implement the protocol. This is not the type of thing that should be undertaken flippantly.

Be smart.

If you want to lose fat, this is not how to do it. This protocol simply rids the body of water weight. All the weight you cut will be put back on in a matter of days, if not hours.

To lose fat, read my nutrition guide, The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide. It’s free and you can get it in my Free Resources Vault.

To understand why diet manipulation is a better method for fat burning than exercising more read my article The key to your body goals here.

To learn what type of exercise burns the most fat and can compliment a caloric deficit, read this.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

If you find this article helpful share it with a friend that needs to lose a few more pounds to make weight.

Email me at michael@composurefitness.com if you want a professional to help guide you through this process or if you have more questions concerning the intricacies of the protocol.

Join the Mighty Fit Facebook Group to keep this conversation going and learn everything you need to achieve your highest level of health.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how Israeli pilots saw the Six-Day War

Fifty years ago, Israel was backed into a corner. Egypt had closed the Strait of Tiran – essentially denying Israel access to the Red Sea. The situation was dire, and Israel knew it had to act.


On June 5, 1967, Israel launched Operation Focus. The objective was to neutralize the Arab air forces, particularly those from Egypt. According to the Israeli Air Force web site, the operation was a smashing success.

You can now see that operation — as well as other parts of the Six-Day War — the way Israeli Defense Force pilots saw it.

During that war, the Israeli Air Force carried out strikes on airfields and other ground targets. They also were in a fair number of dogfights. The best plane the Israelis had at that time was the Dassault Mirage III, a single-seat fighter that had a top speed of 1,312 miles per hour, a range of 1,000 miles, and the ability to carry up to 8,800 pounds of ordnance along with two 30mm cannon.

 

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?
An Israeli Mirage III at a museum. Giora Epstein scored the first of his 17 kills, a Su-7, in a Mirage III. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Six-Day War saw Israeli Mirage IIIs take on MiG-21 Fishbeds, MiG-19 Farmerss, Hawker Hunters, MiG-17 Frescos, Su-7 Fitters, Il-28 Beagles, and a variety of transports and helicopters.

The Israelis lost 46 aircraft and 24 pilots, but in return had killed almost 400 enemy planes, and had control of the skies within hours of the conflict starting.

You can see what it was like for Israeli pilots in the video below, taken from the Israeli gun camera films. The compilation starts with the airfield strikes that were part of Operation Focus. Not just bomb runs, but also the strafing passes on aircraft that were caught on the ground.

The gun-camera footage then shows the Israeli pilots as they score kills in dogfights. Finally, the video shows the interdiction strikes against Arab ground forces.


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

US destroyer sails through Chinese-claimed territory

US Navy warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait Jan. Jan. 24, 2019, in an apparent challenge to Beijing.

The Areligh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell and the Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl conducted a Taiwan Strait transit, demonstrating “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman told CNN.

“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” he added.


The rhetoric in his statement is consistent with that used for freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) and bomber overflights in the South China Sea, actions that tend to agitate the Chinese government.

After the USS McCampbell conducted a FONOP earlier this month, Chinese media responded with a warning that its military had deployed DF-26 missiles capable of sinking enemy ships in the South China Sea.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

The USS McCampbell.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Bobbie G. Attaway)

While Taiwan Strait transits by US warships occurred infrequently in the past, the US has made these maneuvers routine in the past year, which has been characterized by rising tension between Washington and Beijing.

The US Navy sent the destroyer USS Stockdale and the replenishment oiler USNS Pecos through the strait in November 2018, just a few weeks after the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the cruiser USS Antietam did the same in October 2018.

The destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold sailed the strait between mainland China and Taiwan for the first time in July 2018.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

The Chinese government views Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic territory, as a renegade province, and is deeply concerned about foreign interference, particularly US military support.

Beijing feels it may embolden pro-independence forces. In a recent speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping made it clear that forceful reunification remains on the table.

A new Defense Intelligence Agency assessment of China’s military might explains: “Beijing’s longstanding interest to eventually compel Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence has served as the primary driver for China’s military modernization.”

“Beijing’s anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the [Chinese military] to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection.”

In a recent meeting with Adm. John Richardson, chief of US naval operations, Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng asserted, “If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to the South China Morning Post.

Richardson said in Japan that the Taiwan Strait is an international waterway, and left the door open for the US to send an aircraft carrier through if necessary.

China sent military aircraft, specifically a Sukhoi Su-30 and a Shaanxi Y-8 transport plane, flying past Taiwan Jan. 22, 2019, causing the Taiwanese military to scramble aircraft and surveillance ships in response. China regularly conducts encirclement drills around Taiwan.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military announces new hardship pay for troops in quarantine

New guidance from the Pentagon lays out a series of special pays and allowances for military members who are dealing with coronavirus response, quarantined after contracting the virus or separated from their families due to permanent change-of-station changes.


The guidance, issued Thursday evening, includes a new cash allowance for troops ordered to quarantine after exposure to the virus.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

The new pay, known as Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM), helps troops who are ordered to self-isolate, but are unable to do so at home or in government-provided quarters, to cover the cost of lodging, according to the guidance. Service members can receive 0 a day for up to 15 days each month if they meet the requirements, the guidance states.

“HDP-ROM is a newly-authorized pay that compensates service members for the hardship associated with being ordered to self-monitor in isolation,” a fact sheet issued with the guidance states. “HDP-ROM may only be paid in the case where your commander (in conjunction with military or civilian health care providers) determines that you are required to self-monitor and orders you to do so away from your existing residence at a location not provided by or funded by the government.”

For example, if a single service member who otherwise lives in the barracks is ordered to self-isolate, but no other on-base housing is available, he or she could get a hotel room instead, and use the allowance to cover the cost, the policy says.

Service members will not be required to turn in receipts to receive the allowance, it adds, and commanders will be required to authorize it. The payment is given instead of per diem, according to the fact sheet.

The guidance also clarifies housing and separation allowances for families who are impacted by self-isolation rules or whose military move was halted by the stop-movement order issued early this month.

Service members who receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) but who are ordered into self-isolation in government-provided quarters will continue to receive BAH or overseas housing allowances (OHA) at their normal rates, it states.

Additionally, a Family Separation Housing Allowance (FSH) may be available for families whose military move was split by the stop-movement order, the guidance states. That payment allows the family to receive two BAH allotments — one at the “with dependents” rate and one at the “without dependents rate” — to cover the cost of multiple housing locations. Service members may also qualify for a 0 per-month family separation allowance if blocked from returning to the same duty station as their family due to self-isolation orders or the stop-movement, it states.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

The guidance also instructs commanders to “apply leave and liberty policies liberally,” allowing non-chargeable convalescent leave for virus-related exposure, self-isolation or even caring for a sick family member, the guidance states. It also directs them to allow telework whenever possible.

“Commanders have broad authority to exercise sound judgment in all cases, and this guidance describes available authority and flexibility that can be applied to promote, rather than to restrict, possible solutions,” the policy states.

A separate policy issued March 18 allows extended per diem payments to service members or families in the process of moving who are without housing due to lease terminations or home sales.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Celebrities and veterans teamed up to raise millions to fund mental healthcare for post-9/11 vets

On October 19, 2018, a crowd of over 700 guests gathered at Pier Sixty at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers for one reason: to help provide mental healthcare to the men and women who fight for our freedoms. During their 6th annual gala, Headstrong, an organization that provides cost-free, stigma-free, and bureaucracy-free mental healthcare to post-9/11 military veterans, put on a fun-filled event — and raised over $2 million in the process.


Headstrong is making a huge impact on the veteran community.

“We have served over 750 veterans over 16,000 therapy sessions by 150 best-in-class clinicians in 23 cities across the country. All through private donations. Simply incredible,” said Army veteran and Headstrong Executive Director Joe Quinn.

During the event, three veterans seeking treatment through Headstrong, Amanda Burrill, Derek Coy and James Byler, opened up about their struggles and successes in finding effective mental healthcare. Their stories inspired the hundreds in attendance.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

Left to Right: Joe Quinn, Executive Director of the Headstrong Project; Derek Coy; Amanda Burrill; James Byler

Despite the seriousness of the organization’s goals, the night wasn’t without a good dose of levity — after all, it was more than a fundraiser, it was a celebration. World War II veteran and former POW, Ewing Miller, was celebrating his 95th birthday — and he did so by being served cake by actor Jake Gyllenhaal and late night host Seth Meyers.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

Left to Right: Seth Meyers, Host of ‘Late night with Seth Meyers’; Jake Gyllenhaal, Actor; Ewing Miller, WWII veteran; CNBC’s Kenny Polcari

Ewing Miller served from 1942 to 1945. On February 5, 1945, his aircraft was shot down — he was the sole survivor. He endured capture by the Germans until he was eventually freed by legendary military leader, General George S. Patton. Ewing earned several decorations during his time in service, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two clusters, the POW Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal.

When the lights finally dimmed on the evening’s celebrations, Headstrong had raised over million, which will be used to directly improve the lives of many post-9/11 veterans that are struggling with mental health — and it’s a cause worth championing. Marine veteran and Founder of Headstrong, Zach Iscol, said,

“When you put goal-oriented veterans together with top mental healthcare providers, they get better. The panic attacks go away, the anxiety goes away, the anger goes away, the self-medicating goes away…they blossom,”

To learn more about Headstrong, their initiatives, and what you can do to support veteran mental healthcare, visit their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldiers can now serve their country…playing video games

Over 6,500 soldiers are already hoping to be part of a new Army esports team that will compete in video game tournaments nationwide in an effort to attract potential recruits.

“It’s essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, NCO-in-charge of the budding team.


About 30 soldiers are expected to be picked for the team and some of the first positions could be filled summer 2019. Only active-duty and Reserve soldiers are currently allowed to apply.

Those chosen will be assigned to the Marketing and Engagement Brigade for three years at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where the Army Recruiting Command is headquartered.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

More than 6,500 Soldiers have already applied to join the Army esports team, which was created to boost recruiting efforts in the gaming community.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)

While they will not become recruiters, team members will receive a crash course on Army enlistment programs to answer questions from those interested in learning about the service.

Once built up, the team will fall under an outreach company that will also include an Army rock band and a functional fitness team.

Not everyone on the team will compete. Those who will may train up to six hours per day on video games, Jones said, adding that gameplay sessions would be live streamed or recorded for spectators to watch.

Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years with millions of followers.

In August 2018, the Washington Post reported that esports could generate about 5 million in revenue this year in North America. In 2017, a major esports tournament in China also drew a peak of more than 106 million viewers — roughly the same number of those who watched 2018’s Super Bowl.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

“It’s something really new and it’s been gaining a lot of steam,” Jones said.

While on the team, soldiers will still conduct physical training, weapons qualifications and other responsibilities that come with being a soldier. They will also have to maintain certifications in their military occupational specialty.

“Outside of that, there will be esports training,” Jones said. “So whatever game they’re playing in, they’ll not only be playing it, but be coached in it to get better.”

The team, he said, shares a similar concept to that of other Army competitive teams that continually train, such as the Golden Knights parachute team, World Class Athlete Program and Army Marksmanship Unit.

“Esports is like traditional sports,” he said. “Nobody can just walk in and expect to play at a competitive level.”

The Army, he said, already has talented gamers out there who can compete in events.

in January 2019, a few soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community.

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

A few Soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community Jan. 18-20, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)

In one of the events, a Street Fighter V tournament, two soldiers placed first and second.

“This is the perfect opportunity to showcase not only to the Army, but to the civilian populace and the esports industry that we also have what it takes,” Jones said of the events.

Recruiters from the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion also joined them and were able to generate some leads with potential recruits, he added.

There are plans to do the same at the PAX East exposition in Boston in late March 2019.

As a gamer and a recruiter himself, Jones said the team can help bridge the civilian-military gap by breaking down misconceptions some young people may have about the Army.

Being able to play their favorite video games with others who share the same passion is also a bonus.

“For a lot of soldiers, to include myself, it’s like a dream come true,” Jones said. “This is just one of those ways we can start the conversation.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

popular

How drug dealers used the US military to smuggle heroin

In the early 1970s, Harlem-based drug kingpin, Frank Lucas, was slinging his signature brand of heroin all over New York and the east coast. “Blue Magic,” as it was called, was the best-selling, closest-to-pure Asian heroin you could get.


 

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?
Blue Magic envelopes. (Image from the Netflix documentary, Drug Lords)

 

New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor called Lucas, “one of the most outrageous international dope-smuggling gangs ever… an innovator who got his own connection outside the U.S. and then sold the stuff himself in the street.” That connection was in Vietnam, where the United States was embroiled in a years-long conflict. It presented Lucas with an easy opportunity to move his product.

No, it was not in the coffins of dead service members as Lucas originally claimed, nor was it in specially-made coffins or false-bottomed coffins. These are all claims made by Lucas, who is now 87 years old, at various times. The heroin was moved by U.S. military members on military planes, however.

 

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?
Frank Lucas today.

 

Charles Lutz, who served in Vietnam with the 525th Military Intelligence Group and spent 32 years as a federal narcotics agent, was part of the team that toppled Frank Lucas’ Asia-based heroin supply chain. He detailed how, exactly, military investigators and drug enforcement agent cracked the scheme for History Net.

Two Army NCOs, Leslie “Ike” Atkinson and William “Jack” Jackson, met at Fort Bragg early in their careers. While in Vietnam, they made money buying Military Payment Certificates on the cheap and trading them in for cash on the border. When they got tired of that, they started smuggling heroin from a bar they purchased in Bangkok.

 

Staff Sgt. Jasper Myrick, Atkinson, and Jackson would cheat soldiers at cards and forgive their debt if they moved a shipment of heroin in their personal luggage back to the States. Even though he was caught trying to mail heroin through false-bottomed AWOL bags and thrown in prison in 1975, he continued to move product. After all, he was Frank Lucas’ chief supplier.

Army Criminal Investigators were connected through a DEA informant in Bangkok who connected them to Atkinson’s supplier. Posing as street thugs, they set up a fake buy. After they had evidence against Atkinson’s buyer, they convinced him to come to the U.S. for some fun in Las Vegas. Not only did he come, he brought a kilo of heroin with him.

Even though he was eventually busted and sentenced to 30 years, he wouldn’t give up the former Master Sgt. Atkinson. Luckily, there were two other recently retired military members in Bangkok. One of them told the DEA and Army CID that Atkinson was moving a giant shipment to the U.S. soon.

(Al Profit | YouTube)

 

That’s when luck blew the case wide open.

Staff Sgt. Jasper Myrick was having his household items inspected for a coming move to Fort Benning. The Army inspector found 100 pounds of “China White” heroin hidden in Myrick’s furniture. But the DEA still needed to trace it back to Atkinson.

Thai police traced the furniture back to its manufacturer where they identified an associate of Atkinson’s, Jimmy Smedley, a retired Army NCO who also ran Atkinson’s nightclub in Bangkok. They also found orders for Myrick’s move and orders for another soldier who recently moved to Augusta, Georgia.

But that soldier’s furniture was already emptied. One of Atkinson’s known associates, an Air Force NCO named Freddie Thornton, had stayed at a motel in the area recently. Agents picked up him and everyone associated with the heroin move.

It was the largest heroin smuggling operation in American history.

Thornton turned on Atkinson and everyone involved was convicted. The heroin was never recovered and was valued at $5 million on the streets.

 

35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?
The film American Gangster was loosely based on Lucas’ story.

 

Frank Lucas, the drug dealer who took credit for smuggling heroin in the coffins of dead servicemen, was arrested before Atkinson in 1975. Originally sentenced to 70 years, he turned on everyone and got his sentence reduced significantly.

Atkinson calls his claim of using coffins “the biggest hoax ever perpetrated.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?

That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.

This is his story:


35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’

(Paramount Pictures/Hasbro)

The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.

Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.

Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.

“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)

Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.

Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.

After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,

“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

The resemblance is uncanny.

Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information