While men and women are considered equals in battle, the same cannot be said for the gear they must wear.
With more women taking a role in military combat, which includes elite special operations, the pressure has been put on both the Marine Corps and Army to address the problem of ill-fitting female body armor. It’s leading to a minute revolution to offer smaller-size life-saving apparel options.
Both military services are offering thousands of new female body armor that will fit the female shape much better. This coming on the heels of the gender-neutral infantry that was ordered in December by Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Marines and new female soldiers could start serving in the fall.
New Body Armor Sizes For Women: Why Were They Developed?
According to Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, the Army offers eight new body armor sizes to fit women. Williamson is the key military deputy to the Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology.
Williamson said anyone who has worn body armor understands the inconvenience it can have without adding to the size issue. When designing the new protective gear, the military worked hard to come up with a design that fits smaller male soldiers and women.
He said the female body armor isn’t all about size; it also takes into consideration their anatomy, which lead to a redesign of the way the gear would fit. Williamson said it wasn’t just about being smaller but the proportions.
Number Of Female Body Armor Developed
There has already been approximately 5,500 sets of Army body armor released, and the services hopes the number will increase to 24,000 sets relatively soon. The Marine Corps noted that 3,800 sets were handed out so far.
The latest Marine size ensures that the smallest two percent of women will have proper female body armor for the first time ever. Marine Corps Systems Command Commander Brig. Gen. Joe Shrader said the body armor were produced after a study of female physiology concluded while the inclusion of women into combat roles was decided upon.
He said it was purely accidental that the two occurred at the same time.
According to Mass. Dem. Rep. Niki Tsongas, in the past, the military services have been fairly unresponsive about the need for female gear, forcing them to wear male-designed body armor. She said when the Army first designed the female body armor, they were using a male version that would often compromise women to lift their arm and shoot their gun. Tsongas said the risks of stalling the issue even further put women in real danger, especially when in combat zones.
Tsongas said body armor is unlikely to be the final gear issue to be addressed as women take on the combat role. She said shoes issued to the servicemen and women don’t take into consideration what women’s feet need based on the demands she is being asked of.