Wed, Dec 24, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Army showcases floating bridges at Shihmen Reservoir


The army yesterday demonstrated the operation of a German-built mobile floating bridge, a move aimed at reassuring the public that the military can handle new equipment.

The army also introduced the service's first woman company leader, Captain Li Ya-ting (李雅婷), who graduated from the army academy five years ago.

Li leads the engineering company that showcased the M3 mobile floating bridge yesterday at the Shihmen Reservoir in Taoyuan County.

The company, under the command of the 6th Corps, is responsible for handling all mobile floating bridges.

The army bought 22 such bridges four years ago at a price of NT$33 million each.

Lieutenant General Hu Cheng-pu (胡鎮埔), commander of the 6th Corps, said that Taiwan was the first country in Asia to own the M3 mobile floating bridge.

"The advanced equipment is in service only with the NATO countries," Hu said. "It is the best of its kind in the world. It can carry all of the tanks in the army. It is also very useful for disaster support.

"It is an amphibious vehicle. It can float on water and drive on land. These bridges can be connected together within a short time to form a bridge crossing over a river or flooded area," he said.

The army unveiled the M3 bridges two years ago at an engineering school in Yentsao Township, Kaohsiung County. At the time, the company that received the new machines did not know how to operate them.

Yesterday, however, the company took just eight minutes to connect three floating bridges to form a continuous bridge 50m long.

Captain Li said the company has yet to be dispatched on a disaster-support mission.

"The mobile floating bridge was brought in mainly to provide emergency passage over the Tamsui river as bridges crossing rivers are destroyed in times of war," Li said.

"We have yet to reach full combat readiness. We are still looking for a permanent base along the Tamsui river," she said.

Li is the first woman company leader in the army. Her deputy is also a female, Lieutenant Kang Hsiao-nan (康曉嵐).

Kang is also a graduate of the army academy.

After graduation, the two started as platoon leaders, taking the same jobs as their male counterparts.

At the moment, however, the army offers woman officers only combat-support roles.

Men still occupy the lead positions in the Army's offensive and combat units.

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