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Reconnaissance On The River

Szöveg: László Szűcs |  2008. október 1. 6:57

The locals were quite surprised when thirty soldiers set up their tents right next to the ferry which crosses the river between Mezõtúr and Szarvas.

Many thought that Körös is flooding again, and just like in the spring of 2006, the Hungarian soldiers will fortify the barriers.

The weather was not kind to the warship crew of HDF 1st Honvéd Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Warship Battalion, for on the first day of the long awaited river reconnaissance task it was pouring all day. Like they say, they were literally soaked, and each piece of garment got wet on them.

Because of that, setting up the camp was not without problems either. They had planned to erect the tents at the protection centre in Kútrét, but it was almost impossible to access the area in the metre-high mud. Thus, as an alternative, they created their temporary base in the vicinity of the ferry that operates between Mezõtúr and Szarvas. Much to the surpise of the locals…

"Right after the tents were pitched, a part of the crew got on board to start the work, since there are many tasks waiting for them" – says Major Zsolt Szilágyi.


We were talking with the deputy commander of the corps – a member of the warship crew himself – in the "officers’ tent" in the morning of the second day of the one-week training. With a big cup of hot tea in our hands, the camp oil stove making a comfortable noise in the middle and warming up the air under the tent nicely, it is easier to tolerate the cold weather outside.

For Major Szilágyi it is obvious that he participates in the training from the beginning until the end. Like he says, on the one hand the troops "expect" the commander to be out in the field and take part in the completion of task together with his soldiers, instead of leading from the barracks, behind his desk. On the other hand, it is true that warship personnel had little data on the Körös until now, and this venture allows the commander to gather first-hand information about the river – the dangerous places, ferries, and a number of other things –, which can be useful in flood protection. And two years ago, in the spring of 2006, the river Körös had proven that whenever it is flooding, it must be taken seriously…

"The most important task of the one-week training is the mapping of landmarks and water structures" – I learn from the deputy commander of the battalion. It means that the warship crew explore the entire Hungarian section of the Körös rivers by four combat boats – so-called Rocsós – and a rubber boat, marking on a draft map where they have found bridges, jetties, piers, or bank sections which are suitable for docking, and perhaps for launching boats and ships. In addition to that, they make so-called cross sections at the typical points, for example if there is a narrow waterway, a curve, inlets, tributaries, and springs.

"It means that in a specific spot, along the rope which is strung across the river – the so-called coordinate rope – we measure the depth of the river every two metres. Practically, we prepare the cross-sectional view of the river. Furthermore we record the flow of the water and the composition of the riverbed in the given spot, whether it is muddy, sandy, or gravelled" – explains 1st Lieutenant Gábor Zsinkó, the commander of one of the reconnaissance platoons.

1st Lieutenant László Danyikó, commander of the warship unit adds to the abovementioned: the current fieldwork is an important element of the soldiers’ training, this topic is titled "technical reconnaissance of water obstacles". But this time the troops do not practice it chapter by chapter, under barracks-military dock conditions, but in the course of executing a real task. This method was applied last October for the first time, when they explored the river Bodrog and the personnel have mastered the techniques of river reconnaissance. This year, the main objective is to develop these learnings on skill-level. Moreover, during the week spent outdoors, they practice the professional preparation, use, and maintenance of standard vessels.


Naturally, the work done on the Körös rivers is significant from a practical aspect as well, for the command crew of the warship unit must compile a so-called reconnaissance report following the fieldwork. In this report, every piece of information gathered during the one-week river reconnaissance activity must be documented, and what is more, it will include the sketch of all the recorded cross-sections and structures as well. Therefore the Hungarian warship personnel will have an up-to-date database of the Körös rivers when the document is complete. They may need this database if – for instance – there is another tidal wave on the most important tributary of Tisza, or an explosive device left behind from the world war is found in the riverbed or on the banks, and the troops have to access and disable it.

In the meantime, the personnel are preparing for the task of the day in front of the tents. They tank up the boat engines, and double check every piece of equipment. We are talking about the previous day with the guys.

"This river is very nice, almost untouched, and its current is also low" – says one of them, Corporal Zsombor Várszegi, who liked the sharp hairpin turns the most when they were charting the waters the day before. Corporal Tamás Hamzelik adds: it was almost spooky when the water, some degrees warmer than the air which grew colder suddenly, was steaming and there were spots of haze wreathing around them while they were doing their job. And what is more, the water was so clean that they could see more than one metre into it. Corporal Zsolt Máté observed that they hardly ever met anybody on the banks of the river. But the people they encountered were very kind to the soldiers.

"Now the river is a bit more friendly than it was two years ago" – recalls Corporal Vince Tarlós, who spent several weeks on the banks of Körös at the time of the spring flooding of 2006. With immense labour, they protected the dike which sagged in several places near Szelevény, and fortunately, they managed to prevent the flooding Tisza and Körös from overflowing the Tiszazug area, threating the lives and assets of hundreds. Back then, the young man believed he would have the opportunity to see the friendlier side of the river as well.

"Line up for briefing!" – 1st Lieutenant Danyikó gives the order and tells about the task for the day in a few words. This time, the three Rocsós and the rubber boat will set off „uphill", that is upstream on the river. After passing by Gyomaendrõd, they have to continue the reconnaissance activity first on the Kettõs-Körös, and on Sebes-Körös in the afternoon. He adds softly: this is not going to be an easy ride…

When the team embarks and disappears in the haze wreathing over the surface of the water, with Major Zsolt Szilágyi we are discussing the issue that pursuant to the draft legislation submitted to Parliament, warship crew could use the so-called protected waters for transport. Should the national assembly adopt this proposal, as of 1 January 2009, the opportunity would open up for the soldiers to explore the lakes Balaton, Fertõ, Velencei, or even Lake Tisza. At the moment, they do not have access to these waters with their motorized boats. Moreover, it would be necessary to chart these waters as well, since in case of an incidental EOD task, their job would be much easier than it is today, once they have up-to-date data at their disposal. However, they would start the exploration of protected waters only in 2010, for next year they would like to carry out reconnaissance work on the tributaries and branches of the Danube. The reason being that a great number of world war explosive devices turn up in these places as well.

We are about to leave when in front of a tent we see a fire burning under a pot. "Lunch is being prepared at the cooking point" – says the major, according to whom the guys can be very happy if a hot meal is waiting for them in the camp after a day’s labour. Although theoretically, the troops are to receive cold food while they are on fieldwork, the cook of the group makes it sure that there is a delicacy on the plates of the reconnaissance team every day. And if necessary, the crew chip in for the ingredients.