The Dindo Challenge
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 months 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
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).
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 Commissions
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
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
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."
Nations of SFOR: Spain
Engineering - bridge