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Teamleader "Bridge Assessment and Reconnaissance Team" - Course

Route reconnaissance is an important task in the effort to maintain freedom of movement for NATO forces. This often includes the reconnaissance of existing transportation infrastructure along a given route. The CJENG is responsible for providing reliable information about the load carrying capacities of a given route including bridges, whether that be the carrying capacity of an intact bridge or the residual carrying capacity of damaged bridges. This information is vital for the planning of tactical movements within the conduct of operations.


NATO is aware of a common capability gap to quickly assess the "right Military Load Class (MLC)" for existing or damaged civilian bridges and a lack of appropriate procedures to execute the reconnaissance and assessment.


By Captain (BEL A) Joris VAN DAELE, 
Military Engineering Centre of Excellence, IKM Officer


In an effort to provide a solution to this capability gap MCLSB MILENG WG agreed to establish a Team Of Experts for Military Bridge Assessment  (TOE MBA) which consists of military and academia from BEL, CAN, DEU, DNK, FRA, GBR, NLD, POL and USA.  One of its tasks is to review and improve STANAG 2021 (Military Load Classification of Bridges, Ferries, Rafts and Vehicles). 10 other projects were also identified, of which 4 have been completed until now.  In order to integrate and disseminate the results of these projects an international course was established in Belgium. The course is aimed at Officers and NCO involved in engineer reconnaissance or those involved in teaching engineer reconnaissance and specifically bridge assessment (Train the Trainer).  


Having successfully completed the course, the students will have an "Expertise Level B" in bridge reconnaissance and assessment and they will be able to do a bridge assessment up to a "Reliability Level 4" assessment procedure. 
Table1: Level of expertise of the reconnaissance and assessment team: 
 Table2: Level of reliability of the assessment procedures:
In general the students are taught how to train and command their team, how to prepare and execute a reconnaissance and bridge assesssment and how to report to higher echelon using NATO procedures.
For this the students will learn about:
-     design, construction, materials and internal forces of military and civilian bridges,
-     the characteristics and operating methods of the bridge reconnaissance equipment,
-     NATO STANAGs related to this subject,
-     route and bridge reconnaissance reports,
-     Level 1 to Level 4 assessment procedures, such as the (BEL) Simplified Tables, the (GBR) Observed Vehicle Tables, the (BEL) Bridgeclassification program, the (GER) BRASSCO or the (BEL) deformation method,
-     executing a route and bridge reconnaissance (picture taking, data collection, task repartition, points of interests, etc.),
-     reporting to the higher echelon,
-     real cases of reconnaissances and assessments executed during missions
Course content:
Day 1
Theory about bridge types, forces in bridges, codes of bridges, STANAG 2010 and 2021 (about classification and marking of bridges and vehicles), STANAG 2253 (about route reconnaissance).
Practice how to work with VMLC (French vehicle classification program) and how to work with bridge reconnaissance equipment (for determination of general bridge geometry, of concrete strength, of metal tensile strength, of bridge deformation and of the placement and geometry of rebars in reinforced concrete).
Day 2
Theory about the assessment methods and programs (GBR observed vehicle tables, BEL simplified tables, BEL bridge classification program, DEU BRASSCO, BEL deformation method).
Demonstration how to do a bridge reconnaissance and assessment (using the bridge reconnaissance reports, the bridge reconnaissance equipment and this in application of the achieved theory from previous lessons)
Day 3 and 4
Reconnaissance by the students: execution of a route reconnaissance conform the STANAG 2253 in order to produce the NATO route reconnaissance form and bridge reconnaissance reports from each bridge on the route.
Assessment by the students: determination of the MLC of the encountered bridges during the route reconnaissance using one of the given assessment methods.
Day 5
Presentation by the students of the Reconnaissance and Assessment they made during the previous days, followed by feedback from the bridging instructors.
Presentation of the BEL mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo where bridge reconnaissance and assessment, including the reach back system, has been executed.
Presentation given by the BEL Royal Military Academy on reinforced and pre-tensioned concrete bridges and the EUROCODES for bridges.
International benefits:
The course also provided the possibility to:
- spread and implement at the tactical level the Records of  Decision of the TOE 
- improve international cooperation in the subject of bridge assessment,
- spread the vision about a Reach Back System and
- give an overview of the existing Assessment methods in NATO countries and 
   introduce the newly developed Belgian Indirect Method for Assessment.
End note:
All course attendees are issued with the necessary publications and software-tools to enable them to conduct a bridge assessment and teach bridge assessment methods back in their units.