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Train hard, bridge easy

By Maj. Ladislav Ruzicka
First published in
SFOR Informer #99, October 25, 2000

Ploce, Croatia - Bailey Bridge Training was held for the Spanish engineers of MND-SE in the Port of Ploce, Croatia, Oct. 9-13.
"This training course was especially important because the Spanish engineers are in the final stages of planning an excellent Bailey Bridge project of launching a permanent 36-meter-long bridge at Ravno in late November. This bridge will replace one that was demolished during the war," said Australian Maj. Rupert Hoskin, the HQ SFOR Engineer Staff Officer (Bridges).

The Ravno Bridge will be the latest in the Donor Bridge Programme (DBP), which facilitates the return of Displaced Persons and Refugees (DPRE) in selected areas. The first 25-meter-long bridge was constructed in Beisici (MND-N) the first week of July, the second 12-meter-long bridge was built in Cajnice (MND-SE) during the end of July.

Twenty Spanish engineers from the divisional engineer unit participated in the course. Many of them are experienced bridge-builders, originating from a specialist bridging unit in the Spanish Army 12th Pontoon Regiment of Bridging Specialist Engineers - (Regimiento de Pontoneros y Especialidades de Ingenieros No 12). But periodic revision is essential especially when such a major project is about to be started.

"The Hungarian Engineer Contingent have developed expertise over many years in Bosnia and for that reason Hungarians provided seven instructors for the course. The HELBA Transport unit delivered the bridge material for the course from Material Management Unit (MMU) in North Port Split to Ploce," said Hoskin.
The traditional place for the bridge training performance was MMU Split. But in the future all bridge courses will be conducted at Ploce, which has been designated as the new site for the bridging store after the MMU is closed.
Hungarian Maj. Miklos Zsiros serves as commander and also an instructor for the course. He said he was pleased with the training.

"I am responsible for giving all necessary information about the bridge construction, quality of the training and, of course, for respecting all precautionary measures. But Spanish engineers are hard workers and they practise properly. They are really good specialists," he said.
Capt. Istvan Papp, deputy course commander, instructor and translator as well, was a very busy man during the course. He ensured communication between Hungarian instructors and Spanish trainees.

"I can explain everything because I can say our instructions in English to one Spanish Engineer, who provides translation for his colleagues," he said.
Engineer Company Commander Spanish Capt. Fernando Baraza Falcon was also one of the trainees.
"In Spain all of officers and non commissioned officers usually work with this kind of bridge, but I think is useful to gain another experience," he said.
Spanish 2nd Lt. Alberto Arcega, platoon commander was also satisfied.

"The instructors are very skilled and experienced. We have only small language problems, but we are all engineers, so we can understand a lot," said Arcega.
According to Spanish trainee Pte. Jesus Orfo Vazquez, "This type of bridge is very good, safe and has very strong construction. It is fun to gain new experience and it also can be useful, when the knowledge of the bridge construction is necessary."
Hoskin said he was pleased with the results of the course.
"The course clearly met its aims and will greatly benefit the Ravno project," he said. "Launching a bridge is a tricky business and becomes quite a complex operation when it's done for real. The guys have gained excellent hands-on experience here at Ploce, so will be able to move up to Ravno and launch the bridge with confidence. I counted four languages being used during the course (Spanish, Hungarian, English and French), but I think engineering troops are the same no matter where we come from."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Spain, Hungary
Engineers - Bridges
Training and Exercises