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The test of strenght

By 1Lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer#108, March 7, 2001

Vojkovici - The floods in late December and early January had its impact on structures throughout the Theatre. One of those structures, the road-bridge in Vojkovici, finally gave up after having fought and lost against water. But the bridge had not given up all its strength. It put up quite a fight when SFOR engineers arrived to tear the rest down.
Hungarian, German, Spanish, and Romanian engineers powered up with cables of steel, and muscles of armour. Two German Pioneer-Panzer, a special winch-bulldozer, and two normal bulldozers and a truck as anchors gave the SFOR engineers a pull of over 320 tons. But the bridge, full of its former pride and approximately 360 tons of concrete and steel, proved to be more demanding than first expected. After pulling the armoured-concrete rests nearly over the finish line, the stubborn bridge resisted to a full stop. First a big shackle gave way to the pressure. Then one of the 36-mm. thick steel wires snapped like a piece of string. The weight of the bridge so great, that an armoured hook on one Pioneer-Panzer gave way and had to be replaced.
The original bridge was built for the Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo held 1984. It collapsed the first time in 1995, and was temporary repaired in 1996 by French IFOR engineers who put a Mabey&Johnson military bridge on top of the old one. The road was at that time important to NATO because it worked as an alternative route to the old HQ in Ilidza.
“When the flood came in December, the water forced away the ground under the pillars in the middle of the river. They fell, and dragged down both the rests of the old concrete bridge, and the military bridge on top of it,” said Maj. Joseph Gadar, chief of the operation.
After dismantling the military bridge, the clue was to pull the rest of the concrete bridge off the old foundation and into the river, so concrete breakers could deal with it there.
“Only a pull of one and a half metre. No problem, but it takes time,” said Maj. Gadar.
Finally the bridge gave up, and fell to a rest by the riverbank. The Engineer Support Unit (ESU) moved in with a concrete-breaker, and broke away the solid pavement on the old bridge. Then the engineers used a blowtorch to cut through the steel concrete armour surrounding the enormous steel frame before it could be moved from the riverbank.
“This is a big task, and it is not a typical task for the soldiers,” said Maj. Gadar. Engineers are more famous for building, not tearing down bridges.
“The concrete is so heavy, and the position in reference to the river too dangerous to use cranes or heavy breaker equipment,” he said.
Therefore they had to test their strength, and won against the Vojkovici Bridge.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Germany, Hungary, Spain, Romania
Engineering - Bridges