Metro-East News

Roger That: Scott AFB personnel will bike to work

Scott Air Force Base is preparing to celebrate National Bike to Work Day on Friday. A group of bicyclists will meet to ride to Scott AFB. Originating from Holy Trinity Church in Fairview Heights at 6:20 a.m. and from the downtown O’Fallon main office (101 W. State) at 6:45 a.m., police will escort riders to the base. A return trip will depart the Air Heritage Park at 4:30 pm. For more information, contact Mary Schmidt at 618-256-5094 or Paul Niesen at 618-229-2574. Bicyclist must follow the same traffic rules as vehicles.

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Last week marked the nine-month anniversary since the start of the U.S.-led air campaign, called Operation Inherent Resolve, against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The air war, which Secretary of State John Kerry said was not a war, but rather “a heightened level of counterterrorism operation,” shows no sign of ending, according to military analyst Micah Zenko, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations.

Zenko relates a good-news/bad-news story about progress against IS. On one hand, after suffering severe losses as a result of air strikes from American and other air forces, “The enemy is now in a ‘defensive crouch,’ and is unable to conduct major operations,” according to Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command, who testified in March to the House Armed Services Committee.

On the other hand, Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces lack the training and weaponry needed to defeat IS and control newly freed territory. “In the prepared testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, two U.S. Air Force lieutenant generals acknowledged: ‘These combat operations are expected to continue long-term (3+ years),’” Zenko wrote.

Austin declared in March that 8,500 IS militants had been killed, while the Pentagon lists more than 6,000 IS targets as having been destroyed. “All of this destruction is coming at a direct cost to taxpayers of an estimated $2.1 billlion, or $8.6 million per day,” Zenko wrote. “How this open-ended air war will shift when the United States begins close air support for trained Syrian rebels in a few months is unknowable.”

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U.S. News & World Report magazine has issued its latest list of the 10 best places in America for military retirees. The list is based on such criteria as affordable living costs, a stable and healthy job market, minimal boom-and-bust real estate market, and convenient access to shopping and support and medical facilities at nearby military bases and VA clinics and hospitals.

The list is as follows: 1) Waco, Texas; 2) Oklahoma City, Okla.; 3) College Station-Bryan, Texas; 4) Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; 5)San Angelo, Texas; 6) Madison, Wis.; 7) Pittsburgh, Pa.; 8)New Orleans, La.; 10) Syracuse, N.Y.

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Wednesday marks the 150th anniversary of the final battle of the Civil War. The Battle of Palmito Ranch, Texas took place on May 12-13, 1865. It began when Union Col. Theodore H. Barrett, commanding forces at Brazos Santiago, Texas, dispatched an expedition, composed of 250 men of the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment and 50 men of the 2nd Texas Cavalry Regiment under the command of Lt. Col. David Branson, to attack reported Confederate outposts and camps near the Rio Grande River, according to the website maintained by The American Battlefield Protection Program.

At about 2 am, on May 12, the Union troops surrounded a rebel outpost at White’s Ranch, but found no one there. Branson next led his men in an attack on a rebel stronghold at Palmito Ranch. The attack scattered the Confederates. Later in the day, the rebels counter-attacked, forcing Branson to retreat with his troops to White’s Ranch, where they were re-inforced by the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. The union troops returned to Palmito Ranch and destroyed the supplies they found. A few miles forward, they became involved in a sharp firefight.

After the fighting stopped, Barrett led his force back to a bluff at Tulosa on the river where the federals camped for the night. At 4:00 pm on May 12, a large Confederate cavalry force, commanded by Col. John S. “Rip” Ford, approached. The federals formed a battle line. The Confederates hit the Union line with artillery. To avert an enemy flanking movement, Barrett ordered an orderly retreat. Returning to Boca Chica at 8:00 pm, the men left the region at 4:00 am, on May 14. So ended the Civil War, a conflict that cost 600,000 lives, abolished slavery for good and completely transformed the United States.

Roger That is a regular feature by BND military beat reporter Mike Fitzgerald. He can be reached at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeFitz3000.

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