U.S. troops rebuild bridge for Bosnian students
December 9, 2003
KUSLAT, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Besim Mustafic was concerned that the only bridge connecting his village of Rasevo in northeastern Bosnia to the town where a dozen village children go to school was falling apart.
Mustafic drove the children to and from school every day in his van, about five miles each way. But every day there was a bit less of the bridge to cross. The wooden boards were rotting away.
That was when National Guard soldiers of the 682nd Engineers Battalion and those patrolling the area from the 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment stepped in to help.
After doing some advance site preparation, the soldiers rebuilt the bridge in a single day. They worked from morning until after dark, when they used the headlights of the their vehicles to see.
“I just came one morning and it was finished,” Mustafic said.
The soldiers picked a weekend to do the work, when children stay at home.
“The bridge is just fantastic now,” said Maj. J.P. Moszer, commander of the engineer battalion.
Before peacekeepers came to the rescue, Mustafic, a farmer, was planning to take some money from his limited budget to buy wood from the nearby sawmill and fix the bridge with other villagers.
The construction material would have cost around $12,000 if a civilian contractor did the work, Moszer said. But using scrap and recycled material the U.S. military had on hand made the project much more affordable.
While the small bridge on the dead-end road leading to Rasevo is critical for the villagers, Stabilization Force patrols and the local Bosnian Serb military whose camp is at one end of the bridge, use it, too.
The bridge is not the first project benefiting the local population that the American engineers have taken on since arriving in September.
The troops have also completed a water project in Doboj and helped with road construction in a village near Doboj. They are working on an American library in Tuzla, and will do more bridge and road work before returning home in March.
SFOR troops have gone on many other less-traveled roads and found small bridges in poor shape.
“So many are falling apart,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kurt Freitag, the engineer in charge of the Kuslat reconstruction. “The main ones that are falling apart that we use, we’ll probably scrounge up some materials and fix them.”
Mustafic, the community leader for Rasevo village, kept thanking the soldiers for their help during a small ceremony on Friday.
He and U.S. troops cut a ribbon and had the schoolchildren walk across the bridge first.
He did show some disappointment that the local military did not take charge of the repairs.
“They (local military) have a passive relationship compared to that of the stabilization force, which is absurd in my opinion,” Mustafic said.
“It surprises me as a person, considering that we are citizens of the same country. We receive greater support from the people who come from across the ocean.”