Engineers still bridging the divides
Master Sgt Jörg Wagner
First published in
SFOR Informer#157, February 6, 2003
Two bridges, 500 metres apart, lead into the town of Foca
across the River Drina. One connects the Bosnian-Serb sector
of the town with the other bank of the river; the other takes
you into the Bosniac sector. The German engineers built that
bridge in 1996 to ensure the freedom of movement of the IFOR/SFOR
troops, but SFOR has long since stopped using it. However,
at the request of the town's Bosniac minority, it is still
being maintained by the engineers.
Foca - On top of its multiple tasks in support of base-camp
operations, which comprise strengthening the perimeter fence
and winterizing billets, the Engineer Company also has off-base
tasks to fulfill. These include EOD (explosive ordnance disposal)
and minefield reconnaissance by mine monitoring teams or inspecting
the so-called temporary bridge in Foca.
"It changes from the daily routine"
On Wednesday morning, the Engineers team, led by Sgt 1st Class
Peter Schnee, set out for Foca. An hour before starting the
inspection, the EOD team checked the bridge for any undetected
explosive devices. "So far we've never found anything,
but it is important not to let things become routine,"
said platoon leader Capt. Ingo Kalthoff. While the second
team member, Master Sgt. Oliver Bürmann was still busy
checking every last nook and cranny of the bridge, the engineers'
inspection team arrived and immediately got down to their
First, the connecting bolts of the deck panels and piers were
tightened from inside. At the same time, Master Sgt. Thomas
Dorn, an Army mountain guide, attached safety ropes to the
outer railing. He then helped Pfc Hannes Kiebler put on a
safety harness, because Kiebler was the man working on the
outside that day. His mission: to tighten the bolts underneath
the decking and on the outer railing. Kiebler was enthusiastic:
"Brilliant, this is a welcome change from the daily routine
of base-camp duty!" He immediately set about his job
of checking the stability of the fastening elements, the ice-cold
river just three metres below him.
Condition of the bridge: good
His counterpart was Pfc Matthias Bühringer. Suddenly
he was heard calling: "Sergeant, a connecting bolt has
come loose down here." Staff Sgt. Wolfgang Höhn,
who was in charge of keeping the bridge inspection record
that morning, noted it down. It was the first of the 20 entries
made in the course of this recurrent monthly 'level 1' inspection.
A 'level 1' inspection consists of tightening all the bolts
on the deck panels and piers and conducting a visual inspection
of bolts and cross girders for cracks. A 'level 2' inspection
additionally requires measuring the bridge for sag.
The condition of the bridge was rated as good. Thus the mission
was accomplished. And the whole population, whatever its ethnic
group, can go on using it.
Nations of SFOR: Germany
Engineering - bridge