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Operation T-55, removal inc.

By 1st Lt. Luis Sanchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#115, June 13, 2001

Italian logistic drivers from the Italian Battle Group are used to transporting all types of material in their freight trucks, from armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to cranes. But it was the first time they had to remove vehicles and tanks, such as Soviet-made T-55s belonging to the army of Republika Srpska (VRS).

Technical characteristics:
ATC 81/A
17.174 cm3
Cylinders: 8
Power: 331 kw; 450 CV (2,400 r.p.m.)
Weight: 28,900 kg.
Total Weight Capacity: 50,000 kg.
Crew: 4
Weapon: 100-millimetre barrel
Range: 1,500 metres
Machine gun: 7.62 & 12.70 mm.
Range: 600 km.

Pale It's five o'clock in the evening, there is nothing special in Pale, a town surrounded by forests located 15 kilometres to the east of Sarajevo. On the outskirts, the guards of the Koran Pale barracks of the 505th Infantry Brigade (V Army Corps of the VRS, based in Sokolac) are posted.
They suddenly hear a roaring sound and open the gates, as an unusual convoy arrived. The VRS Military Police escorted two Italian trucks (ATC 81/A 6x6/8), carrying out a BBP M80 and a T-55, followed by one VM-90 (armoured wheeled vehicle). Italians are carrying out Operation T-55.
SFOR provided logistical support to VRS in order to distribute and monitor VRS forces. As Pale is in the Italian area of responsibility (AOR), the task was performed by the Aderlog Forward (forward logistic unit of the Italian Battle Group based at Tito Barracks in downtown Sarajevo). "This is the first time we accomplished a mission like this, unfortunately we only had two lorries," said Lt. Col. Giraudo, Italian press information officer.
Between May 7 and June 7, 40 T-55 tanks, APCs and others Soviet-made vehicles were transported from two B-Serb barracks to Pale. One of the barracks was located near Sokolac, about 75 kilometres away, and the other in Zvornik, 150 kilometres away. Both of them are in Multinational Division - North, where American soldiers provided traffic assistance on exiting their AOR.
"We have been moving about 40 tanks and other vehicles, two trips per day, one in the morning, the other in the evening; driving around 400 kilometres.
In the first weeks, at medium speed of 40 kilometres per hour, but most of the time at 20. It has been hard work but all the team is happy," commented Lt. Col. Gelindo Lizzit, convoy commander. "And in addition, we have moved another five to be destroyed."
Due to the road's condition it has not been an easy job. "When entering tunnels it has been necessary to stop the traffic on the other side, in order to avoid crossing the convoy with cars, they are not wide enough and we had to drive quite carefully," Lizzit explained. "Furthermore, it was a good opportunity to improve our military skills, working with these kind of armaments."
One of the teams performed this task from the very beginning. Warrant Officer Prevarin Tizina and Pvt. Brand Marcus said they are proud of their work. "Driving across these roads is not boring," Tizina said. "It takes one hour to get there, about 30 minutes to load the lorry and one and a half hours to return here; but there are stones in the middle of the road, tunnels, sometimes uncontrolled traffic, even accidents! On three consecutive days, one of the trucks' tires exploded."
Once in the camp, B-Serb soldiers helped to unload the cargo, drivers unhooked the tank and everybody performed their job. The language barrier is not an obstacle when it comes to co-operation. Slowly, the machine is offloaded, its roaring engines sounded again and the tank moved away into the hangars, where other T-55s were in line waiting for it. Finishing their daily job, the freight trucks weere stationed in the middle of the barracks, all in preparation for the next day. A van waited for the Italian staff to return to Tito Barracks. The last transportation would be performed the next day.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Italy
SFOR at Work