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Multinational bridge launched in Foca

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by 1Lt Alain Boy

First published in Sfor Informer #49, November 25, 1998

Foca - In a small town in Republika Srpska where the Drina and Cehotina rivers join together, a military bridgehas been launched over the Cehotina river to enable people to avoid a 2.5-mile walk to school.

s981202c.jpg (23288 bytes)While supervising the operation, Captain Tirelli, Commander of the French Engineer Company in the Multinational Division-South East, headquarted in Mostar, explained the mission he was given. "While most bridges launched by SFOR replaced previously destroyed bridges, this one is totally new. So we had to prepare the ground on the banks. The latter were near former ammo dumps and we had to clear them," he said.

"Staff Sergeant Hubry and Private Abran have carried out a superb topography job which enabled the launching of a Bailey M1 bridge, the same kind as those used during the landing in Normandy. The bridges weigh approximately 200 metric tons, and are in perfect  condition. During the process, we encountered an unexpected difficulty--while leveling the right-hand bank, we came across water pipes and telephone and power cables. So I decided to shorten the bridge from 170 down to 160 feet in order to build a T-shaped access ramp for vehicles. However, we had to hand-push the first stage of the bridge piece by piece since there was only 2.24 metres between the end of the bridge and the road. The second stage will be put into place by a Spanish and an Italian crane. Once completed, the bridge can withstand 16-ton vehicles."

s981202b.jpg (31253 bytes)As he speaks, a young Spanish female soldier climbs into the cabin of a crane. She sets the folding arm into motion and grabs the bridge section that has just been swiftly assembled by the French, Spanish, Italian and German soldiers. The cooperation is impressive. Everyone knows exactly what they have to do and the operation takes place smoothly. "It is exactly the same every evening after each working day. We spend our evenings together in a very friendly atmosphere," Tirelli confirmed. He also added: "Yesterday a group of 15 or so Bosnian Serb engineers came with us to learn from our skills and lend a helping hand."

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