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The Bailey Bridge training Course

By Maj. Ladislav Ruzicka
First published in
SFOR Informer #90, June 21, 2000

Split, Croatia - "One of the primary missions of SFOR engineers is to provide freedom of movement. It involves routes, railways and especially bridges " said HQ SFOR Chief Engineer Hungarian Col. Istvan Szabo, in his usual job, the Budapest local command chief engineer.

SFOR engineers come from different countries and it is necessary to assure their capability to do their job together. The launching, de-launching and maintenance of bridges is a particularly important area, and to provide trained staff in this area, SFOR recently organised a week Bailey Bridge training course. The course taught 36 trainees (20 from Hungary and 16 from Spain) the basics of this type of bridge. "According to the Displaced Persons Returns Bridge Programme, we are building bridges to facilitate the return of displaced persons. The Material Management Unit (MMU) has some excess of bridge material, about 200m, and we are going to build it in some places to help the return of minority refugees. After we build it, we would like to give it to local authorities. Basically we will give it as a present from SFOR " continued Szabo.

Two men loom large in ensuring support for the course and ensuring all goes well and is of value to the students. Spanish Maj. Sergio Lerma, SFOR Chief Engineer-Logistics, (in Spain he flies Chinooks). "We always provide this course for engineer-newcomers after their rotations," said Lerma. The second is the Chief MMU at the Split North Port facility -British SFOR civilian employee, Mr. George Brown. " Our task is to provide bridge-material, give technical advise and solve any problem. We also procure accommodation and feeding for all of participants" said Brown.

The best students become qualified to act as instructors.

Hungary Lt. Col. Janos Babinecz, 53-year old teacher at the Hungarian Military Academy, is working in SFOR working as Commander of Pontoon-bridge Company. He was in charge of this particular group but was also a student "The hardest for me in this course was to mix the experiences of both the Spanish and Hungarian Engineers." Indeed, one of the peculiarities of the course is the mix of nationalities and backgrounds, but like elsewhere in SFOR this can be as big an advantage as it is a barrier. Said Hungarian Maj. Miklos Zsiros, "I enjoy working together with other engineers and it is a good training, because we are going to de-launch the Fenty Bridge on Monday."

Spanish 1Lt. Jose Maria Correas commented that he had found the course very interesting "But sometimes I had problems with language." For Sgt. Pablo Rodero it was a case of having his appetite whet for further experiences: "It would be interesting to get this training on other models of bridges."

Related link:
Engineering: Bridge stories
Nations of SFOR: Hungary, Spain