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Collapsing Cots Cause Concern In Kuwait
By Steve Liewer
Stars and Stripes
European Edition

February 24, 2004

CAMP NEW YORK, Kuwait It's become an all-too-familiar pratfall here at Camp New York.

Tired soldier loaded with gear plops down on his cot after a long day of training. Crash! He lands on the floor with an embarrassed thud, while his buddies laugh themselves stupid.

"They're junk, that's all they are," griped Pfc. Jonathan Bell, 20, of the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, whose cot collapsed under his 205-pound bulk. "The legs just cave."

The cot casualties are mounting. Spc. Shaun Smith, 27, of Atlanta, a supply clerk with the Georgia National Guard's 277th Maintenance Company, estimated more than 500 have been turned in for replacements in the past week. That doesn't count many more collapsed cots that soldiers still are using, propped up with boxes or their own rucksacks.

The collapsing cots do not respect rank. Lt. Col. David Hubner, the Task Force 1-77 commander who stands 6-foot-4, broke one. Capt. Jason Goodfriend, 6-3 and 235 pounds, has crunched two.

In most places, soldiers are using standard Army-issue khaki cots. They aren't pretty, but they're strong.

But Camp New York's come from a private contractor in Kuwait. The brightly colored blue and green cots fold up simply and come in easy-to-carry bags. They are made in China and carry the Saudi brand name Al-Sanidi. They look more suited for weekend camping than the rigors of Army life.

"They aren't built for soldiers. They're built for civilians," Smith said.

For soldiers, cots aren't only beds. They also serve as chair, sofa, dining table and dresser.

"The ones we have back home in Germany are more sturdy," said Spc. Robert Boyer, 21, of Altoona, Pa., of Company C of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, based in Schweinfurt. He sleeps, jackknife style, on a cot that has collapsed in the middle.

"This is one of the few times you cherish the good ol' Army stuff," said Staff Sgt. Donald Ulbright, 42, of Pana, Ill.

Camp New York's supply staff has issued new cots to replace broken ones. They are beginning to hand out the familiar khaki ones again.

"I'm glad I have a real Army cot," said Goodfriend, 26, of Flemington, N.J. "It just goes to show, the Army knows how to make stuff."

Soldiers are hoping when they head north to Iraq soon, they'll leave behind the newfangled cots.

"I'd rather sleep on the floor," said Bell, of Franklinton, La. "This is the worst camping trip I've ever been on."

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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