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And for 5,000 more bags

By Ltn Franois-Xavier Miller
First published in
SFOR Informer#106, February 7, 2001

Doboj - The weather was bitter and cold. In spite of the -6°C, Danish and Polish soldiers were sweating. The Joint Engineers platoon from the LogCoy reinforced Camp Dannevirke defenses by building another pillbox.
This defensive position provides cover for a sector which defends the no-man's land between the barbed wire fence and the tactical vehicle parking lot.
The infrastructure was settled a few weeks ago. Hesco Bastions formed a man-sized enclosure. These big cylindrical bags 1,50 m. high, 1,25 m. in diameter were wire netted so that they can be tied together. The Hesco bastions had been filled with a mixture of stones and clay. If the need arises, they would already be able to protect a sentry.
From that point the sappers made sandbags. A vertical filling gutter mounted on a trestle was a simple and yet convenient tool. Pvt. Thomas West and Pfc Lars Poulsen helped Lance Cpl. Frank Ostrop fill sandbags; the first held the bag beneath the gutter, the second emptied his shovel in it, and the third closed and piled it up. One hundred meters away, other Danish and Polish soldiers did the same from another heap. A forklift truck linked up and came to deliver its pallet loaded with sandbags on the building site.
"We will probably need 5,000 sandbags for one pillbox of this type," explained Pvt. Jakob Ostergaard. "But as far as other structures are concerned, it can reach an amount of 8,000 to 10,000 bags." This accounted the week deadline with an eight-hour daily worktime given for this mission. "We might have finished earlier," admitted Pvt. Kim Schondoff Hansen, who did not seem very impressed by weather conditions. "And even though it is cold, working keeps us warm, and from time to time we have a coffee break to warm up."
These bags will be used for building the roof. A first row on the infrastructure and half-cylinder shaped corrugated irons were laid. A framework will prop up the roof, and all of it will be covered by these sandbags to form a block with a compact and solid aspect. "We have already tested one of these pillboxes with a hand-grenade. Should a hand-grenade fall on the roof, the blast would be absorbed and the soldiers would be safe inside," Hansen said.
The final result will give a defensive position with three protected holes from which six soldiers could stand shooting. The pillbox will probably never be used for real, but it will act as a deterrent by its presence. As for the work done by Nordpol sappers, it reminds us that keeping a deployed army well protected and comfortable is a continuous process, sometimes ungrateful, but always necessary.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Denmark, Poland
SFOR at Work