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The Donor Bridge programme gets under way

By Maj. Ladislav Ruzicka
First published in
SFOR Informer #92, July 19, 2000

Besici (Doboj) - The first bridge of the Donor Bridge Program (DBP) was constructed July 6-7 as part of a programme to assist Returnees on the way home to their pre-war housing.

The program began in October 1999, when the United Kingdom (UK) Ministry of Defence advised HQ SFOR that it wished to donate all UK owned Bailey bridges in the SFOR area of responsibility and that they would, "in the fullness of time, recover them and pass them on to the people of Bosnia."

At that time, the total Bailey Bridging assets in store in theatre, and available for immediate use equated to 110 m of Class 60 Bailey Bridge. A further 60 m of Class 60 Bailey Bridge remained in use at two crossings (Bosanski Novi and Sanski Most) to aid SFOR freedom of movement. A total of 170 m of Class 60 Bailey Bridge was donated to SFOR. It should be understood that this doesn’t constitute a significant bridging capability and, at most, would be sufficient to establish six or seven small bridge crossing.

The HQ SFOR Chief Engineer directed that the donated Bailey Bridge should be used to assist the return of Displaced Persons and Refugees (DPRES) and established the DPRE Donor Bridge Programme. The HQ SFOR Civil Military Cooperation Branch was asked to establish the location of potential crossing sites where the damage to existing bridges was inhibiting the return of DPRES. By March, 35 crossing sites had been identified.

There were numerous selection criteria to consider before the final decision was made. For example, there had to be the certainty that there is a site of 'minority' returnees in the area, and confirmation that there are no alternative crossings in the locality. It was also important to see what specific requirements were, such as the degree of site preparation …etc. The Beisici site met these criteria.
The person who is responsible for all bridging operations on the Theatre Controlled Routes and who has coordinated DBP is Maj. Richard Wardlaw, UK Royal Engineer, in HQ SFOR Engineer Branch - Staff Officer Engineer Operations (Bridges). According to Wardlaw, it was decided that construction of the first two bridges in the DBP would be in Beisici (MND-N) and another bridge in Cajnice (MND-SE).

Seven nations shared the 25m long Beisici Bailey Bridge construction. The Hellenic - Bulgarian Theatre Transport Group delivered the bridge parts from the store of the Material Management Unit one day before the launching. The 4th Finish Engineers were responsible for road construction, meaning they built the access road and operated all heavy equipment on site. They had at their disposal a crane and scooploader.

Danish soldiers assured security with datime traffic control and at night they guarded all the equipment there. Ten infantry soldiers from the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS) and two Polish engineers assisted in construction. According VRS Commander, Serbian Capt. Boca Petrovic, this was his first experience constructing a bridge together with SFOR. "We have strict professional relationship," he said.

1Lt. Brooks Harris, US Army Engineer Platoon Leader of 43rd Combat Engineer Company MND-N, was responsible for completion of the whole project.
"We started with reconnaissance in March. We designed the road and configuration of the bridge, provided the expertise for construction and we also ensured the bridge is safety constructed. We ordered components of the bridge and made sure they all arrived," said Harris. In the end, 24 soldiers of his platoon worked on the bridge construction as well.

Some of us US Army soldiers have had experience in cooperating with Entity Army Forces. "We have a very good relationship with VRS," stated Harris.
Co-ordinating all the different military units is perhaps the most difficult aspect of such an operation.

"I get involved in bringing the engineers from different countries and ensuring they have the required material and equipment support," explained Wardlaw. "Immediately after construction the bridge will be handed over to the Doboj municipality. They will take care of maintenance, inspection and all aspects of the bridge."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US, Denmark
Engineering - bridges
EAF professionalisation