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New female body armor

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Army surgeon general tries on the new tactical vest specifically designed for the female physique

Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, Army surgeon general, tries on the new tactical vest specifically designed for the female physique. While providing the same high-level ballistic protection, it has an improved quick release system, narrower shoulders, front ballistic plate insertion, more adjustability in the waist area, and a collar that can accommodate the regulation hair styles worn by women in the field. Photo Credit: Glenda S. Smith

U.S. Army

It had been a complaint for years that body armor was not made for the female physique. That has now changed.

The armor that women had to wear in combat was ill-fitting, uncomfortable and restricted freedom of movement, which is a detriment in operational environments. The Women’s Health Task Force informed by the voices of the women serving in Afghanistan identified concerns with the body armor in use at that time.

Through the deliberate efforts of the Army and Program Executive Office, or PEO, Soldier, these issues are currently being addressed. This particular version of the new tactical vest has been designed with women specifically in mind.

Lt. Col. Frank Lozano, Soldier Protective Equipment product manager, Maj. Joel Dillon, assistant product manager of Soft Armor, PEO Soldier, and Deana Archambault, project engineer, reviewed and discussed the improvements of the new tactical vest with Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, Jan. 31.

Dressed in her ACUs, Horoho donned the new tactical vest.

“This is what security should feel like,” Horoho said. “You should not have to think about it. It’s just there. Historically the design for body armor for women was extrapolated from the anthropomorphic measurements of a standard male cohort. Not surprisingly, the fit was woefully inadequate and decremented agility in tactical environs.”

Immediately after donning the vest surgeon general demonstrated her full range of motion in her shoulders and arms by rotating her arms in a wide arc.

“This is amazing,” she said.

Through a joint effort between Product Manager Soldier Protective Equipment, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier RD&E Center, or NSRDEC, Anthropometry Team and the Natick Design Pattern and Prototype Team the protective vest has been fitted for today’s female warrior.

While providing the same high-level ballistic protection, it has an improved quick release system, narrower shoulders, front ballistic plate insertion, more adjustability in the waist area, and a collar that can accommodate the regulation hair (bun) styles of female Soldiers.

PEO Soldier has manufactured 100 of the new female Improved Outer Tactical Vests, known as IOTVs, thus far. In August and September of 2012, the female IOTV was field tested by 19 Female Engagement Team, or FET, Soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky. Vests were also fielded to FET team Soldiers in 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, Ga., in November 2012.

Also, numerous vests have also been provided to Special Operations Command for evaluation. Many of these FET Soldiers have since deployed to theater and are continuing to evaluate and provide feedback on the vests.

PEO Soldier is currently planning to have adequate female IOTVs produced to begin fielding deploying units in early fall 2013.

In December 2011, the surgeon general directed the establishment of a Women’s Health Task Force to evaluate issues faced by female Soldiers, both while deployed and while stationed in the continental united states. This task force serves to amplify the collective voice of women in uniform.

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