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Form Fitting Body Armor for Female Troops

With women making up 14% of the active duty service personnel, and 18% of the National Guard and Reservists, the Army is now preparing to proceed towards actual, combat, field testing of the third generation, Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV), or body armor, designed just for women. It was finally determined that the unisex body armor that has been issued in the past was not working for women, and hampered their efficiency in job performance.

Engineers and researchers at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, in Natick, Massachusetts, found there were major problems with female military utilizing the current unisex IOTVs. The complaints they received through their surveys and interviews were:

*The extra small sized IOTVs were too large for 85% of the women personnel.
*The IOTVs were too loose and too long.
*The arm holes were too large and left gaps in protection, especially under the arms.
*The armor side plates hung too low causing hip bone bruising.
*A weapon could not be properly seated into a womanís shoulder.
*The collar/yoke was too bulky.
* The IOTV rides up to the chin of a woman when sitting because the torso of the vest is too long.
*It is difficult to put on and take off.
*Over all, the fit affects performance.

In 2011, the Army initiated a project to create female-specific body armor with an emphasis focused on fit and functionality. The Army took measurements of female personnel from several installations, and created a data base and sample size from which they fashioned a model. Theirs statistics demonstrated the emphasis in design had to be in the bust, torso length, and shoulders. The numbers also indicated that 90% of the women could be fitted with eight different sizes and two different torso lengths.

The female-specific IOTVs utilize the same armor plated as the unisex model with the exception of the side plates which are scaled down slightly to fit the female contour. The shoulder openings were also made adjustable for a better fit with increased protection.

Through this whole process, prototypes were made and tested mostly by the women of the 101st Airborne Division, 1st Brigade Combat Team. Reports tell us they love the new IOTV.

Further modifications have been made. The collar/yoke has been streamlined, but still maintains the integrity of the unisex model. Darts have been added to the sides and bottom to increase the fit to the female form. The clasp system has also been reconfigured to provide better closure thus increasing protection. The result is the Gen III of the IOTV, and it is ready for actual combat, field deployment testing.

The plan is to have 3,000 new Gen III, IOTVs manufactured. They will be given to an Army Brigade selected for deployment in the third or fourth quarter of 2013. The Brigade will train for five weeks with the new Gen III IOTVs so that the troops can get use to the improved balance and lighter feel.

There are greater numbers of women selecting service to our country as a career choice, and finding themselves in harmís way. It only makes sense that the military provide the kind of body armor needed so our women soldiers can perform their jobs safely and efficiently.

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