Ministry of defence Republic of Serbia
 
04.07.2016

Preparations of the Serbian pontoneers



On the Danube River, near the village of Surduk, 86 selected pontoneers that constitute a team of the Serbian Armed Forces are training every day to represent in the most dignified manner their state, the army, and the unit at the upcoming International Army Games in the Russian Federation.

The team consists of pontoneers of all specialties of the First Pontoneer Battalion, with part of the Second Pontoneer Battalion of the River Flotilla of “Cer heroes” barracks from Sabac and "Aleksandar Beric" barracks from Novi Sad and selected 93 divers from the dive company. Within 23 competitive disciplines of games, from 30 July to 13 August, they will participate in the first-discipline called "Open water", held in Murom, on the Oka River.

- The competition is extremely demanding. It consists of a number of related activities on the banks and on the river, with the involvement of the engineering detachment in the role of a reconnaissance patrol, the use of a heavy dozer, amphibious transporters. There follows formation of a detachment scaffold of three parts, which grows into a platoon one of nine parts, and a company one of the 18 parts. Everything must be done expertly, professionally, with respect to the existing regulations in force, especially the safety measures and in the shortest possible time. Everything counts – experienced pontoneer Major Branko Popovic, commander of the pontooneer company, explains.

It was neither simple, nor easy to become a member of the Serbian pontooneer team. The most capable ones, most advanced, most successful and most daring ones were selected. Apart from the "first team" there is a certain number of reserve competitors, technical and other support staff, which will serve the competitive part.

Although the temperature these days exceeds thirteen degrees Celsius, and muggy weather and high humidity further complicate stay by the water, pontoneers almost do not notice the unfavourable weather conditions. They only wipe sweat off their faces and do not complain. With utmost precision, following the prescribed security measures, they practice demanding actions in the assembly and disassembly of pontoon scaffolds, embarkation and disembarkation of the technique, navigation. They repeat and practice action after action, step by step. For now, it is without a stopwatch, and the time will soon come for it to be used.

During that time, the crews of three amphibious transporters work in a synchronized manner, as world-class competitors in synchronized swimming. Movement, preparation of ramps, loading vehicles, entry into the water, sailing, getting out of the water and unloading. And all over again.

- Our pontoneers are very good professionals. However, competition is competition. Nothing must be left to chance. Simply, we need to work as the most complex clockwork. Only in this way we will decently represent the state, the army, and our unit. That is our goal – Lieutenant Colonel Sinisa Marinkovic, Commander of the First Pontoneer Battalion, head of the competing team says, adding that apart from the professional preparations, the psychological preparations have also been planned, and that the results achieved have been analysed on a daily basis, weaknesses have been perceived and eliminated, competitive tactics developed and coordinated.

And so it is every day, until 8th July, because the competitors are to set off on the trip on the twenty-first already. And, apart from their undisputed knowledge, expertise, experience, the Serbian pontoneers will certainly bring on their trip to distant Russia, Morom and Oka, a lot of competitive spirit, will and desire to succeed, as well.

- We are confident that we will reach the level of proficiency which ensures, in this large and important international competition, the participation alongside pontoneers of the Russian and Chinese military, for example, and that we will represent Serbia and the Serbian Armed Forces in the right light and in a dignified manner – the Serbian pontoneers assure. Despite the participation of contestants who are members of by far larger and more numerous world military forces, they secretly aspire to at least one of the medals.

CASTLE ON THE RIVER

Murom, a town in Vladimir area with about 120,000 inhabitants, is located along the left bank of the Oka River, about three hundred kilometres away from Moscow, In the 9th century it signified the easternmost settlement of the Eastern Slavs in the land of Finno-Ugric people called Muromians.
The Oka River, right tributary of the Volga River, about 1,500 long, and in its widest part two and a half kilometres wide, runs through seven areas of the Central Federal District – Orlov, Tula, Kaluga, Moscow, Ryazan, Vladimir and Nizhny Novgorod.

COMPETITION TECHNIQUE

- Here we are practicing on our pontooneer technique, M71 PMP pontoon park and amphibious transporter PTS, that are quite aged. At the competition itself we are to take the pontoon technique of Russian armed forces, pontoon parks PMP 2005 similar to ours, but far more sophisticated and advanced. When it comes to handling and does not differ too much from our techniques, but it will not pose an insurmountable obstacle to our competitors. However, in Russia, before the competition, we will have enough time and conditions to use and rehearse with that technique as well – Lieutenant Colonel Marinkovic says.