Metro-East News

Roger That: Scott AFB Spouses Club to hold benefit dinner and auction March 11

Mark your calendars for a night of fun, food and raising money for scholarships for military kids. The Scott Spouses Club is sponsoring its annual “Denim & Diamonds” benefit dinner and silent auction set to start at 6 p.m. March 11 with a social hour at Bellecourt Manor , 225 east “A” Street, Bellevillle. Dinner is set to be served at 7 p.m. Tickets $30 apiece.

Tickets can be bought at the Scott Club 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. or be going online at the SSC website.

The club’s scholarship program recognizes and rewards outstanding academic achievement and school and community involvement of eligible United States military members’ dependents and spouses, of any rank, by offering financial assistance for study at higher learning institutions. Scholarship awards will be presented to local graduating military dependent high school seniors and local military spouses. All applications must be postmarked no later than March 1, 2016.

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This week’s fighting in Syria has seen major changes for the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s grip there, leaving some in the Pentagon wondering if ISIS is trying to expand its territorial hold or is in its last throes, according to The Daily Beast.

This week, Kurdish forces pushed the terror group out of two cities —al Thawrah and Ash Shaddadi—that sit on supply routes for ISIS’s de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa. In Ash Shaddadi, Kurdish forces received substantial U.S.-led coalition air strike support.

At the same time, ISIS appears to be making strides toward taking new cities in western Syria. The terror group has aggressively fended off a months long Russian-led attempt to reclaim the central city of Palmyra, a city that many believe could serve as ISIS’s entrée into western Syria. And ISIS claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombings Sunday in the city of Homs and the southern outskirts of Damascus that killed at least 200 people, potentially signaling its move on those cities.

Pentagon officials are cautiously hopeful that the Islamic State is in retreat, noting that the number of ISIS fighters continues to fall. The latest Pentagon estimate is that the terror group’s ranks stand at 15,000, the lowest of the war.

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The Islamic State group relies on commercially available components for most of its bombs, with some parts coming from as far away as the United States and Japan, according to a report released Wednesday by a London-based arms research group, according to the Associated Press.

Conflict Armament Research says most components — such as chemicals and detonators — come from companies in Turkey and Iraq, which may not know the parts are being bought by the extremists. Many components are also used for civilian purposes, such as mining, making them relatively easy to get.

The researchers traced the origins of over 700 components recovered from IS bomb factories and unexploded bombs. The parts they were able to fully document had all been legally acquired.

The most commonly used explosive was made with ammonium nitrate, a common fertilizer. The group's mobile phone of choice, used for remote detonation, is the Nokia 105, the report said.

Most components come from companies in Turkey and Iraq, probably because of their close proximity to the IS group's self-proclaimed caliphate. But the procurement network stretches to 20 countries, with some parts originating as far away as the United States, Brazil, China and Japan.

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Flight Global is reporting that the narrow window for Boeing to deliver 18 operational KC-46A Pegasus tankers to the US Air Force by August 2017 includes little to no room for error and a series of tests and events must go right to achieve that significant contractual milestone.

The $5 billion development program is about eight months behind its original schedule after facing a number of setbacks, but company officials have committed to achieving the “required assets available” milestone, meaning 18 jets delivered to two air force bases between March and August next year.

But while USAF officials applaud that ambitions goal, they say in an interview with Flightglobal that schedule — not cost or technical difficulties — is the next-generation tanker project’s main challenge. Even if those tankers are in place by August, Air Mobility Command, based at Scott Air Force Base, won’t have had enough time with the 767-2C-based tankers to declare initial operational capability on time.

618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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