Largest Hungarian military operation of the century starts in chaos

Author: József SPIRK Original title: Fejetlenséggel indult a XXI. század legnagyobb magyar katonai művelete
Publication: hvg.hu, Photo: MTI – Balázs MOHAI Date: 11:07 13/09/2015

Largest Hungarian military operation of the century starts in chaos

 

Duty started with a crash course in fence building. Hungarian soldiers deployed to the Serbian border, however had difficulties in putting their new skills to practical use. There were days when the work was stalled due to lack of materials. On another day there were several hundred men for a single machine. A soldier at the fence reported that the mass deployment of Hungarian soldiers started chaotically. It happened upon Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s insistence to ensure that the building of the infamous border fense (175 kms in length and 3 meters in height) was ready by the deadline.

The new Defense Minister used impressive numbers on Saturday to illustrate the scale of the operation. István Simicsk  few days after having taken over the post from Csaba Hende said in an interview to the newspaper Magyar Idők that 4300 men were deployed to the 175-km- long stretch of the border to build the fence.

After former minister Csaba Hende resigned Ministry of Defense suddenly agreed to Viktor Orban’s instructions to make the construction of the fence the first priority of the Hungarian Army. The Hungarian Army’s manpower barely exceeds 5000 men so the barracks around the country are mostly empty by now: 70-80% of the men are deployed to work on the Serbian border.

Coordinating, catering for and using efficiently said troops did not go smoothly.

A soldier told index.hu about the state construction works were in this past week.

Monday:

Soldiers were told Monday morning that they are to help building the fence on the border starting the following day. Everyone was supposed to report for duty with packed bags the next morning. Nobody could give information on the expected length of the deployment, however. Deadline for completing construction on the fence is September 15, soldiers were probably to go home once they are finished.

Tuesday:

Firstly they were taken to another military unit where they were given a crash course on fence building. They left for the border in the afternoon reaching their quarters after 10 pm.

Wednesday:

They did nothing on Wednesday, due to lack of building materials. They went to inspect the fence then they were taken back to their quarters. If all goes to plan they would be working 12 hours a day from Thursday onwards to be ready by the following Tuesday. They were supposed to have moved move to the new lodgings in the evening, but another, freshly arrived team got there before them.

Thursday:

Chaos reigned. At the construction site around Bácsalmás at any one time only about 140-150 men could work efficiently but the deployed were present in multiple times that number.  Also, they only had a single pile hammer between them. Nobody had information regarding the other teams working on the other side of the fence or on where the two stretches of fence are supposed to meet and how. The rain also made things worse. The team had packed their bags in the morning and had gone to work, they were told that they would be given new quarters in the evening but they ended up in the same place in the evening. It was lucky that the next team hadn’t arrived yet because then they would have had to spend the night on a truck’s plateau. As it was they had places in tents, albeit in cramped ones: they did not have enough place to put their belongings. Unpacked bags took up most of the space.

Friday:

They moved to a new site, to a camp is an hour’s drive from the border. In the morning they mounted pieces of fence that had been cut to measure previously. They worked on a 10-km-long stretch, in several places at once. On one end they could see the team working next to them but not on the other side. They stopped for lunch at 11 am. Rations, however have been miscalculated so that only half of the soldiers had lunch, the other half had to wait for theirs for three hours. The new quarters had 7-person tents, better than the previous ones but still no room to unpack. Sick soldiers (yes, some had fallen sick already) were sent home only if they were seriously ill. Soldiers with sinusitis were sent home, allegedly.

Saturday:

Construction has been proceeding haltingly due to diverse obstacles, despite the fact that the supply of building materials became adequate by the end of the week. Builders themselves wearied and relief was nowhere in sight. They were given no information or feedback not even on the state of the work they themselves were doing. The fence did not look like it was going to be completed by the deadline, however. They were starting to be fed up with their quarters, too. They felt even the refugees were better catered for. They started work at around 7 am and were back at their lodgings around 9 pm. Having worked for 12 hours and travelled for two, they only had cold water to wash up in. They are cold night too, the tents are unheated.

After nearly a week, they still did not know when they were to go home to their families again. In the meantime, some of the soldiers were redirected from the construction to training centres. They are being drilled for border defense there.

The soldiers are preparing for the state of emergency to be declared.

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