Army Testing Body Armor Made for Women
Nineteen soldiers training this week to deploy to Afghanistan were sporting the newest thing in the Army’s defensive arsenal: body armor strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.
The 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., are to be the judges of the new vests now in prototype. Authorities hope they will provide a safer, more comfortable fit to the 14 percent of active duty troops who are women, and who for years have been wearing body armor designed for men.
Would the new “Improved Outer Tactical Vests” — shorter in the torso, narrower in the shoulders, darted in the bust and with a narrower but adjustable waist — pinch, gap, bell or otherwise fail in form, fit and functionality?
It was too soon to tell, said Libby Richardson, of the U.S. Aberdeen Test Center, who is leading the field test. “It’s the first day,” she said Tuesday, of a testing period that will last a couple of weeks.
But Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski, veteran of two deployments in the usual body armor, seemed pleased. “I can sit down in it,” she said. “I can run in it easier.”
The discomforts of the standard vest made it tougher to do the job, said Pawlowski, who is 5 feet 4 inches tall. “Anybody who’s short like me, it’s, ‘Oh, God, why?’ “
Pawlowski and the 18 other soldiers testing the vests are to be on the brigade’s Female Engagement Team, seeking to interact with Afghan women, when they deploy in November.
As they train, it will become clearer, Richardson said, if the new body armor under development for the past couple of years addresses shortcomings of the “unisex” body armor designed with male bodies in mind.