The Dindo Challenge

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Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
First published in
SFOR Informer#150, October 24, 2002

The launching of a Bailey bridge at the Dindo site has finally been completed after three month’s work. This project required the co-operation of several organisations and comprised several stages. The last of these being the launching itself, which occurred during the first two weeks of October.

Dindo - Since the bridge is situated in the Area of Responsibility (AoR) of Multinational Division Southeast (MND-SE) the task was assigned to the divisional Spanish Engineer Unit in Mostar. This unit had previously been involved in the project when it developed works around the bridge site (see SFOR Informer #146, Aug. 29, 2002).

Previous jobs
Dindo village is located in the south-eastern part of Konjic Municipality on the border with Kalinovik Municipality, which is also the Inter Entity Boundary Line (IEBL). The bridge over the Ljuta River, a tributary of Neretva, was destroyed during the last days of the war before the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP). In such a mountainous and rural area Dindo bridge provides a very important transport route. Furthermore, this project will make it easier for displaced persons to return to their pre-war homes, to work in the field and develop the economic properity of the region, thereby encouraging free trade between both Entities.
This important point was noted by some international organisations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Union (EU), which both requested the help of SFOR.

At that time the MND-SE G-9 CIMIC (Civil-Military Co-operation) cell took the lead for the project. The first step was to clear both sides of the road from possible Unexploded Ordnance (UXOs) to allow machinery to work unimpeded. Tracks were also widened in order to facilitate the movement of lorries responsible for transporting bridge parts to the site.
The second step was to reinforce the central-pillar of the bridge and build a new abutment on the west bank, in the direction of Konjic, so that the Bailey bridge could be launched from that side. These tasks were the responsibility of civilian contractors whose cost, some 44,000 Euros, was paid for by the European Union.
Murray McCullough, Head of the European Commission’s Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina in Mostar said; "It is not only the funds that the EU obtained for the civilian contractor, but also the SFOR manpower and machinery that was important. This provided support with a calculated value of 300,000 Euros, as well as another 200,000 for the Bailey bridge itself. It is a very important project that will contribute to the strengthening of the link between Republika Srpska and the Federation," he added.

A Bailey bridge
The next and final step was to launch the Bailey bridge itself. Most of the SFOR bridge material for the area was stored in Ploce harbour (Croatia). It was here that the Spanish Engineer Unit undertook training and refresher courses for one month before the operation itself. They were also there to arrange the different loads requiring transport to the bridge by convoy. Staff Sgt. José Cozar Guardiola was in charge of the convoys from Ploce to Dindo. "We can not use large lorries because of the terrain. From Konjic to the site there are some narrow stretches of road. Besides, articulated lorries are not all-terrain and we need that kind of vehicle for the last ten kilometres of track to the site," he said.
They also encountered several other logistical problems. They were unable to store large amounts of parts for the bridge in the vicinity of the site, as is the usual practice. In addition the launching beach was very narrow, and for this reason they were forced to resort to several convoys over alternate days. They were obliged to attach parts to the bridge at the site before sending for another convoy. Thus, the Dindo bridge project was not just an economic challenge but also a logistical one, as well as being highly technically demanding.
The Bailey bridge stored in Ploce was, with some improvements, the same one that the British Government had handed over as a gift in 1994. At that time these kinds of bridges were launched in Mostar by U.S. and Spanish Engineers, then removed and launched again in Ravno, also by U.S. personnel, and finally at the Dindo site by the Spaniards.

A technical challenge
The Bailey bridge is considered a rearguard logistic bridge. Weighing in at 102 tons and built for easy transportation it needed 23 lorries to transport it to the site in several phases. The bridge has a total length of just under 49 metres and is able to support more than 20 tons. During the mission other units took part in the operation carrying out several different tasks. Security was provided by the Portuguese Battalion of the Operational Reserve (OPRES, Ground) and later on by the French Battle Group. Communication and medical support were also provided by French personnel. Staff Sgt. Antonio Tenreiro Martinez, besides working on the bridge, was also in charge of supplies. "We looked for accommodation and food nearby in Odzaci and found just what we needed. It is very important after a long working day to have a good meal," said Tenreiro. The Spanish Engineer task force was led by 1Lt. Carlos Santiago Tartilán. "We have a technical concern, which is the rocky slope over here," said Santiago, referring to the right hand side of thelaunching beach. "We need to be accurate bothwhen attaching all the pieces and when launching it step by step in the correct direction. This is because afterwards we will not be able to move it left or right," he explained.

This Bailey bridge is called double-double-reinforced, which means a double high, double wide frame fitted with reinforcement chords. The process of launching took almost two weeks. Once it was launched everybody was jubilant. "It is the first time we have launched a Bailey bridge this long in a real situation. It was great," said Sgt. Joaquín Vicente Gutiérrez.
After all the hard work Santiago spoke proudly about his 26 men. "They performed brilliantly, just perfect. We are very proud to collaborate in a project that will improve understanding in BiH".
Harry Leefe, Head of the UNHCR Office for South BiH, concluded "the original bridge was built by the Engineers of the JNA (Former Yugoslavian Army), then destroyed in the war by the Engineers of the Bosniac Army and finally reconstructed by SFOR Engineers. Good job."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain
CIMIC
Engineering - bridge stories

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Photos: Lt. Antonio Ruiz González

Different stages (1-4) of the launching of the Bailey bridge over the Ljuta river (end of Sept. - middle of Oct.).


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The structure of the Bailey's nose can be seen over the destroyed bridge and the Ljuta river.


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A decisive stage. The nose of the Bailey bridge prepares to fall across the rollers that are placed on the landing abutment while being pushed from the launching beach.


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An improvised meeting at the site. (l. to r.) Harry Leefe from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 1Lt. Carlos Santiago Tartilán, Spanish Engineer Unit task force leader, Murray McCullough from the European Union, and the civilian contractor.


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The bridge parts were brought from Ploce (Croatia) to Mostar and then to Dindo. Several convoys carried out the operation.


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Cpl. Félix López Ugarte supervises the fixing panels team.


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The construction of a double-high bridge like this one requires considerable accuracy and skill.


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Due to the narrow access, manpower was often used instead of machinery.