WASHINGTON, (AP) — Army Captain. Kim Pierre-Zamora recollects the protective vest she received when she started basic training several years ago. The medium size vest was too large and made it difficult to bend over to pick up something.
Pierre-Zamora explained that whenever I tried to move, or to try to shoulder my weapon on a pop up range really quickly then I would have had to physically pick up my vest and move it so I could shoulder my weapon.
This is a common complaint among female soldiers and small-stature males who have had to put up with heavy armor for over 20 years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has started to offer armor in three sizes, extra small, small, and small long, for the first-time. The armor can be adjusted in multiple ways so that it fits better and allows soldiers to move more freely.
Over the past few weeks, the “modular scalable vest”, distributed to over 4,500 soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Female soldiers will also be able get new versions that are more tailored to their body. These shirts can only be given out to soldiers who are deployed.
Army researchers have been researching the new changes for years. They are trying to create lighter, more comfortable combat gear.
The initial motivation for the increase in size was to address complaints from female soldiers who are now increasingly pursuing combat jobs that were previously only available to men. Women deployed to war zones often discovered that they were smaller and shorter than men. They needed armor that allowed for narrower shoulders and busts, and protection that protects hips and hips.
However, the Army made the decision early on to make the vests non-sex. Lt.Col. Stephen Miller said that the decision was based on the belief of smaller male soldiers who would need a small or short-sized vest and that they would refuse anything that was “stamped by a female”. He is the product manager for soldier protection equipment at PEO Soldier. This Army organization coordinates the fielding and use of armor, weapons, and other equipment.
It has been a great success.
Pierre-Zamora is an assistant product manager at PEO soldier and said that nearly 25% (1,200) of the 82nd Airborne troops have received armor in the three new sizes. About 100 of those 1,200 were women.
Five other sizes are available in regular size: extra small, medium and large.
Pierre-Zamora stated that the new shorter and longer versions are more comfortable for many soldiers. For example, she stated that she and another female soldiers appear about the same in size. However, she claimed that she wears a smaller size than the other soldier and she also wears a shorter one.
She stated that they both appear about the same size but her torso was a little shorter than mine.
She explained that soldiers can also use the vest to insert additional protection by moving the ballistic armor plates. The soft pockets holding the plates can be moved up so that they don’t rest on the hip bones of female soldiers, preventing them from being agile and quick. You can adjust the shoulder straps.
Some men who are slimmer will find the small, long version more comfortable.
Miller stated, “There were a lot small men who were probably wearing too big a vest for them.”
Miller stated that he was one.
He stated that he had been given a medium or large size in the past. He was given the smaller size in the new version because someone who knew their stuff fitted him for it and said, “No, the MSV (modular-scalable vest) fits me, that’s where it goes.”
He also said that another soldier he knows is over 6 feet tall but very thin. He usually gets a medium or large depending on his height and length, but now he uses the small long — one the new sizes that have just become available.
There is a new version of the combat shirt that’s specifically made for female soldiers. This is because the problem was not in the size but in the shape. Miller stated that the sleeves are shorter and the bottom is flared. Additionally, the shoulders have protection to the sides.
According to him, the new shirt eliminated the problem female soldiers were having with their shirt hanging up on their hips. The unisex version is still available for women with straighter builds.
Miller acknowledged that there were complaints about Army’s body armor for many years. It took some time for vendors to change the dimensions and shapes of the ballistic plates. They could also be lighter and more effective at protecting soldiers from blasts.
Miller stated that “Stopping bullets” is a complicated problem. It took a lot of effort to modify the system to make it lighter, more efficient, and to find the soldiers that weren’t included in the old systems.
He stated that the biggest problem was to reduce the plates’ weight. The new plates weigh in at about one pound less. He stated that so far, only two vendors had met the lower weight goal, without sacrificing protection.
The new armor will eventually be available to more than 6,000 soldiers from the three brigades of the 82nd Airborne Division. Miller explained that each soldier is fitted individually by qualified personnel. A 30-minute class is given to soldiers in order to show them how to adjust their armor.