On the 24th of February, Kirtland announced that they were going to introduce new body armor for women at Kirtland Air Force Base. They claim that the female airmen have already started receiving their body armor specifically tailored for them in January. However, on the 17th of February this year, Kirtland announced a new distribution of more body armor for women in the security forces.
This has been a long-awaited move; As Kirtland describes in one of his articles, this instalment is “part of a larger effort within the Air Force to provide women better-fitting equipment”.
The delivery will be specifically for the Female airmen of the 377th Security Forces Group at Kirtland Air Force Base.
Changes in the vest for women
The new female body armor adapted specifically to the measurements of the female physiognomy and taking into account the needs of female airmen presents numerous changes concerning the body armor designed for men.
“The new armor is different from our current standard tactical ballistic vest,” Master Sgt. Brianne N. Trapani, 377th Security Support Squadron superintendent, said in a Kirtland article interview about the topic. “The new one is lighter, has a curved chest plate and a shorter torso size.”
In addition to these differences in men’s vests, body armor has an adjustable back and there are several sizes available.
“Our previous gear did not allow for much freedom of movement,” Tripani indicated in a US Air Force article. “So if we were in a situation that required us to run or quickly exit a vehicle, it hindered us greatly. It also put us at risk by wearing gear that was not properly fitted to protect us. “
First deliveries of body armor
In the same article collected on the US Air Force page, the testimony of one of the first women in the Air Force who has tried these new body armor is told. This is Senior Airman Kiah C. Cook, 377th SFG Defender, who explained:
“The first thing that came to mind was excitement,” Cook said for the US Air Force News medium. “This is a historic moment. It shows us that the military is starting to appreciate us females more, especially as cops, and getting us gear that is specifically for us. “
Importance of inclusive body armor
There have always been numerous problems with the adaptation of materials for women in the defensive forces. They have also experienced it this way at Kirtland Air Force Base, as indicated by Maj. Saily Rodriguez, Female Fitment Program Manager:
“Our female Airmen had gaps due to poor fitment issues” However, she also indicates that things are changing, as “the new gear fits properly which improves protection and offers better comfort for gear that has to be worn in difficult environments and conditions.”
The Air Force has been taking numerous measures to facilitate the comfort of women in defence services. Trapani indicates that it is vitally important to take into account women in the security forces. To illustrate this, Trapani explains that when she joined the Air Force, there were only 14% of women. Now the estimations indicate an increase of women up to 12%. This makes these adaptations more essential than ever
“We owe it to our female defenders to outfit them in gear that fits while properly providing comfort and protection in dangerous environments,” Trapani said. “We all do the same job in security forces, we are all one team and having gear that fits our physical features more appropriately is a huge step for inclusivity within this male-dominated career field.”
Body armor model
The model that is going to be used and distributed is owned by TSSi of Harrisonburg, Virginia. It is the Aspetto “Mach V” system model. This body armor was specially designed for these air security officers. That is why they have, as the Aspetto sources indicate, a strong “drag handle; design elements to help the plate carrier retain its shape; and a quad release feature that allows an airman to take off the carrier in one second ”.
The search for possible body armor for Air Force women began in 2018. To chose the perfect one the Air Force compared various products to see which was the most effective. The Air Force announced in June 2020 that this was the vest of choice.
The Air Force plans to buy up to 5,600 body armor systems, with delivery starting this fall and completing within a year, contracting documents state, as indicated in the Aspetto webpage.
These small changes help the inclusiveness and equality of men and women in the security forces, and the satisfaction of the promoters of the project is evident:
“This is an exciting time filled with progress and changes in the right direction for many initiatives within the military,” Trapani said. “I am happy to see some antiquated issues finally being addressed and resolved.