Army Captain Kim Pierre Zamora remembers the protective jacket he received when he attended basic training a few years ago. It was medium in size, hanging, and even challenging to bend down to pick up something.  “Whenever I tried to move or tried to shoulder my weapon or shoot on a pop-up range really quickly, I would have to physically pick up the vest and move it to shoulder my weapon,” Pierre-Zamora said. 

This is a general complaint of female soldiers and short men who fought in the wide range of armor they wore during the 20-year war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in the last few weeks, for the first time, the military has begun distributing three additional sizes of weapons: Extra Small Short, Small Short, and Small Long. Armor can be adjusted in various ways to allow soldiers to move faster and more freely. 

The “modular scalable vest” has been distributed to more than 4,500 soldiers so far in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in recent weeks. Female soldiers will also be able to obtain new versions of the combat shirt that are more adapted to the shape of women. Those jerseys are issued only when soldiers are deployed. 

Army researchers have been working on the changes for years, trying to find combat gear that is lighter and a better fit. Initially, the effort to add more sizes was in response to complaints from female soldiers, who are increasingly moving toward combat jobs that were previously only open to men. As more women were deployed to a war zone, they often realized that they were shorter and smaller than many men and needed armor that would allow for narrower shoulders, bust, and hips. 

However, early on, the Army decided to make the vests unisex – the decision, Lt. Col. Stephen Miller said the decision was based on the belief that smaller male soldiers who might need a short-sized vest or small they would refuse to wear anything. which was “stamped woman.” He is Product Manager for Soldier Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier jobs, an Army organization that coordinates the deployment of armor, weapons, and other equipment. 

That move has proven to be a success. Nearly 25 percent, or 1,200, of the 82 airborne soldiers so far have received armor in the three new sizes, said Pierre-Zamora, who works as an assistant product manager at PEO Soldier. Of those 1,200, about 100 have been women. 

There are five other regular sizes that have been available before: Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large. Pierre-Zamora said the new short and long versions fit many soldiers better. For example, she said that she and another female soldier appear to be roughly the same size. But, she said that she wears a small extra, while the other soldier wears a small extra. 

 “Outwardly, we both look like we’re about the same size, but her torso is a little bit shorter than mine,” she said.  The vest, she said, also allows soldiers to move the ballistic armor plates that can be inserted for additional protection. The soft pockets that hold the plates can be shifted up to don’t rest on female soldiers’ hip bones, impeding quick and agile movement. The shoulder straps are also adjustable”. 

 The small extended version of the vest better fits some thinner men. “There are a lot of small men who were probably wearing a vest that was too big for them,” Miller said. Miller said he was one of them. However, the new combat shirt has a new version specifically for female soldiers because the shape was not the size. Miller said it has shorter sleeves, a flare at the bottom, and added protection along the sides of the bust. 

Over time, more than 6,000 soldiers from the three brigades of the 82nd Airborne Division are expected to obtain the new armor. Miller said each soldier is individually equipped with trained personnel. Soldiers go through a 30-minute class to learn how armor can be adjusted. 

Source: Lewistown Sentinel