November 11, 2007
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THE Defence Force is facing legal action from soldiers who have injured their backs while using army issue backpacks.
Army sources say up to 18 current and former soldiers could be part of a class action.
Many soldiers refuse to use the official backpacks and spend up to $500 to buy their own equipment from private suppliers before heading off to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The army has issued a tender for 48,000 more of the backpacks to be delivered over the next four years at a cost of about $10million.
Soldiers have repeatedly warned the army the large packs were ill suited to carrying their 40 to 50 kilograms of equipment.
They have complained of torn back muscles, dislocated shoulders and suffered spinal problems from using the official packs.
One Australian pack manufacturer said he sold 40 heavy duty backpacks last week to soldiers heading to the Middle East.
"It was approved by their commanding officer," said Peter Marshall, owner of Crossfire military equipment in Braidwood.
"There would be up to 800 privately bought packs on soldiers serving in the Middle East right now.
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