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De-launching makes space for reconstruction

By CPO Tim Adams
First published in
SFOR Informer #87, May 10, 2000

Jajce - Two SFOR bridges are being removed on route Gull between Jajce and Banja Luka which is forcing highway traffic to take a 50 km detour through Mrkonjic Grad. There is a long-term advantage because they will be replaced by permanent civilian structures. These multi-panel Mabey & Johnson military bridges are as good to see come down as they are good to see go up. Much appreciated when built because they re-established freedom of movement quickly across or through destroyed or damaged structures, they are coming down because the local authorities are strong enough to resume control and are ready to re-build solid, civilian bridges.

The Project Implementation Directorates of the Federation and the Republika Srpska recently requested that SFOR remove the Lendrum (Crka) bridge and the Durrant (Druge) bridge to allow permanent structures to be built in their stead. These bridges were built in 1996 by IFOR (Implementation Force) engineers and were maintained by SFOR Hungarian Engineers through the years. With SFOR's temporary bridges now out of the way, civilian contractors will begin construction work destined to be finished by the end of September, 2000.

Hungarian LT. Col. Jozsef Nyers, Commander of the Hungarian Engineer Contingent tasked with removing the 52-meter long Durrant bridge, expressed his satisfaction for the project. His 31 man detachment performed their individual roles with timely precision and skill while removing panels and retracting the 80-ton structure. All SFOR bridge engineers receive training at the Materials Management Unit (MMU) in Split, Croatia every three months. That is where they learn to work together on the many skills required to effectively and safely assemble and dissemble panel bridges.

Safety was the first priority and divers were posted 25-meters below the engineers just in case of an accident, but there were no incidents or injuries. "It is good to work with a crew that worked together as one man," said Hungarian Maj. Janos Puskas who orchestrated the details of this job. "These people are hard workers."

Security and communications for the project were provided by eight British personnel and two British APCs (Armoured Personnel Carriers.) The Hungarian engineers also stayed at Konjic Grad, a near-by British camp while they completed this mission.