Metro-East News

Roger That: Scott Air Force Base, MidAmerica Airport gets nearly $300,000 federal grant

News-Democrat

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, announced Scott Air Force Base and MidAmerica Airport, located in St. Clair County, will receive a grant in the amount of $272,580 from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The money will be spent on Scott’s and MidAmerica Airport’s first phase of constructing a 2,260-foot service road to improve the safety and efficiency of operations.

“Protecting and improving critical infrastructure at this airport will have a positive economic impact on the region,” Bost said in a statement. “Scott Air Force Base and the MidAmerica Airport are essential partners in meeting the transportation needs of St. Clair County and the metro-east area overall. This is welcome news.”

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Iraqi security forces lost 2,300 Humvee armored vehicles when Islamic State overran the northern city of Mosul in June 2014, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday in an interview with Iraqiya state television.

Defense analyst Peter Van Buren, writing on a foreign policy and military blog for Reuters, expressed a stark, and depressing, insight: “Coupled with previous losses of American weapons, the conclusion is simple: The United States is effectively supplying Islamic State.”

In addition to the Humvees (which cost about $70,000 apiece), Iraqi forces previously abandoned significant types and numbers of heavy weapons to Islamic State. Losses to Islamic State include at least 40 M1A1 main battle tanks, as well as small arms and ammunition, including 74,000 machine guns, and as many as 52 M198 howitzer mobile gun systems.

To help rebuild Iraq’s depleted arsenal and motor fleet, the U.S. State Department last year approved a sale to Iraq of 1,000 Humvees, along with their armor upgrades, machine guns and grenade launchers. The United States is currently in the process of moving to Iraq 175 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, 55,000 rounds of main tank-gun ammunition, $600 million in howitzers and trucks, $700 million worth of Hellfire missiles and 2,000 AT-4 rockets.

Nearly 3,000 American soldiers are in Iraq training Iraqi soldiers to fight Islamic State and other extremist groups. U.S. taxpayers are spending about $1.2 billion to train Iraqi troops as part of the omnibus spending bill that Congress approved earlier this year. Those same taxpayers spent about $25 billion from 2003 to 2011 training Iraqi security forces whose performance against the Islamic State has been, at best, inconsistent.

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Houston city leaders announced Monday that they had effectively ended veteran homelessness, seven months before the White House announced an ambitious goal to house every veteran nationwide, according to a story reported on the Aljazeera America website.

The fourth-largest city in the United States, Houston is the first of the nation’s 40 biggest cities to meet the target. Phoenix, Salt Lake City and New Orleans said they have already reached it, too.

“Since January 2012, we have housed 3,650 veterans and their families,” said Marilyn Brown, the chief executive of the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless in Houston.

Houston achieved its target numbers with the help of street outreach teams and a sweeping effort among local and federal agencies to find and evaluate homeless vets and put them in safe housing.

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U.S. Army scientists have invented a “ballistic wallpaper” made from Kevlar threads that can protect soldiers from shrapnel kicked up by rocket-propelled grenades and other explosives, according to a story published by Wired magazine.

The wallpaper can be quickly installed by troops in the field to fortify unreinforced buildings and structures. The product, which is yet to be named, consists of Kevlar fiber threads in a flexible plastic film. It can be applied to structures made of materials like masonry or cinder block, adding useful and needed protection for a temporary shelter.

In normal circumstances, a wall hit by an RPG or other type of explosive will “rubberize,” sending shattered material flying at those nearby. The wallpaper acts as a protective net, slowing the rubble and stopping it from flying at soldiers.

Created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development center, the wallpaper was tested by engineers who built unreinforced buildings, which they bombed with test explosives. It was introduced at a recent Department of Defense Lab Day at the Pentagon.

The ballistic wallpaper is not yet ready for use in the field. Research and development continues, while no timeline has been announced for when it will be used in real world situations.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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