Written by Spc. Kadina Baldwin
1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Fort Campbell, KY – The Army has been in the midst of making changes to fix the problem of ill-fitting uniforms and body armor for all soldiers but more specifically to accommodate female soldiers.
In 2009 after the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) reported that the form and fit of the newly-issued improved outer tactical vest, or IOTV, interfered with the ability of female soldiers to operate weapons and equipment effectively, the Army began to focus on better fitting body armor for female soldiers.Lynne D. Hennessey, clothing designer for the Research Design and Engineer Center, said that there was a need for female specific body armor since 85 percent of the x-small sizes were too large and long for many female soldiers. The new armor that she helped design is made to curve with certain parts of the unique physique of the female anatomy compared to the one size fits all armor that was geared toward male soldiers.
“It is awesome the way it feels lighter and made for narrow shoulders so the weight doesn’t pull down on that area,” said Bobbie Crawford, a female engagement team soldier with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
The Generation III IOTV differs mainly by incorporating smaller plates inside the vest and changing where you insert them as well as the emergency release which was initially complicating to reassemble, said Hennessey who also mentioned that the size of the armor will be labeled by a numbering system through 10 measurement developments.
“There will be no more small or large as of now, and the sizes are based off of measurements, so a small will be a size 11 vest and 52 will be the largest based more off of height,” said Hennessey.
Crawford is one of 20 female soldiers selected to give feedback to the Army for the GEN III IOTVs throughout and upcoming deployment and two evaluated training segments.
“There will be a limited user evaluation consisting of wear and tear through normal working environments and then the human factor evaluation will consist of training at the range, the obstacle course and vehicle maneuver training before deployment for immediate feedback and adjustments for the selected soldiers,” said Maj. Joel Dillon, assistant product manager for soft body Armor.
Dillon said that the intent is to have at least one full brigade of female soldiers in the GEN III IOTVs by the middle of 2013 with an issuing of about 3,000 vests.
These female soldiers will test and evaluate the GEN III IOTVs this summer and through deployment. If successful, the Army may have up to eight additional sizes to accommodate 90 percent of the female population which currently makes up about 14 percent of the Army force.
For more on the story, see: 101st Airborne Division Soldiers to Test Female-specific Body Armor