Metro-East News

Roger That: Two metro-east students are semifinalists for 2016 Military Child of the Year

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

Two metro-east high school students are among those who have been picked to join 90 semifinalists nationwide for the 2016 Military Child of the Year Award, which is sponsored by Operation Homefront, a not-for-profit organization.

The students are Adriel Moran, 17, of O’Fallon, and Sarah Banning, 17, of Glen Carbon.

The eighth annual awards will recognize six outstanding young people ages 8 to 18, with one or more parents in the military, to represent the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement, and other criteria while facing the challenges of military family life.

There are 15 semifinalists from each military branch. Each semifinalist was selected from a pool of more than 500 children who were nominated at MilitaryChildOfTheYear.org since Oct. 15.

Each recipient receives a $10,000 award and a laptop, and is flown with a parent or guardian to Washington, D.C., for a special awards gala on April 14.

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Scott Air Force Base will host what could be the final Tops In Blue performance at 7 p.m. Friday at the Mascoutah High School Auditorium in Mascoutah, which is free and open to the public.

Tops In Blue is the U.S. Air Force’s premier entertainment unit composed of 40 of the most talented vocalists, musicians, dancers and technicians anywhere. These airmen come from a wide variety of Air Force career fields, including maintenance, medical, communications, intelligence and everything in between. This year’s theme is “Freedom's Song,” a celebration of the freedom Americans enjoy, and features the sounds of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Megan Trainor and others.

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The Air Force is indefinitely freezing all plans to retire the A-10 Warthog, a warplane many officials, airmen and congressional members have rallied behind since the announcement of its withdrawal from the battlefield, according to Air Force Times.

The Air Force has since last year relied heavily on the A-10 in mounting attacks on Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria. The low-flying, slow-moving, armor-plated war bird can loiter for hours over enemy positions and wreak havoc with its Gatling gun and wide range of bombs.

“It appears the administration is finally coming to its senses and recognizing the importance of A-10s to our troops’ lives and national security,” Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., said in a statement Wednesday in response to the news reports. McSally is a retired colonel who served 26 years in the Air Force and was the first female pilot to fly in combat.

A legacy of the Cold War, the A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed to destroy Eastern Bloc armored vehicles during a conventional land war in Europe. The Thunderbolt II can deploy a wide variety of conventional munitions, including general purpose bombs, cluster bomb units, laser guided bombs, AGM-65 Maverick and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, rockets, illumination flares. It’s biggest claim to fame, though, is its GAU-8/A 30mm Gatling gun cannon. Capable of firing 4,200 high-explosive incendiary rounds per minute, it can slice through hardened tank armor and re-inforced bunkers as easily as a hot knife through butter.

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Hard to believe how fast 25 years can flash by, but it has.

Saturday marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of Operation Desert Storm — a military campaign aimed at expelling the Iraqi army from its oil-rich neighbor, Kuwait, which Iraq had invaded and annexed in the summer of 1990.

On Jan. 16, 1991, President George H. W. Bush announced the start of a campaign that consisted of a U.S.-led coalition of two dozen nations that had positioned nearly 1 million troops in the region, with the majority stationed along the Saudi-Iraq border. After a U.N.-declared deadline for withdrawal passed Jan. 15, with no action from Iraq, the coalition unleashed a five-week bombardment of Iraqi targets from air and sea. The ground invasion followed in February, in spite of widespread fears that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would respond with a massive chemical weapons attack.

Under the leadership of Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, coalition forces quickly evicted Iraq from Kuwait, drove deep into Iraq, and achieved a cease-fire within 100 hours — but, controversially, leaving Saddam Hussein in power. Coalition casualties were in the hundreds, while estimates placed Iraqi losses in the tens of thousands.

The most dominant images of the war might have been photos of thousands of scorched corpses and smoldering Iraqi vehicles that littered the so-called “Highway of Death” — Highway 80, a major artery that runs from Kuwait City to Basra, Iraq. In late February 1991, just before the ceasefire, thousands of fleeing Iraqi military trucks and tanks jammed that roadway, becoming easy targets for Marine, Navy and Air Force attack jets, which unleashed the full might of their ordnance on the defenseless Iraqi columns. The death toll remains unknown, but up to 2,000 tanks, trucks and other vehicles were destroyed in the attack.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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