The U.S. military is not adequately providing all female service members with properly fitting protective gear including female body armor. This raises their risks of being injured and their readiness for battle. Senators of both parties made this argument Wednesday upon unveiling new legislation that would overhaul the system currently in place.
Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, a combat veteran, introduced the bill that would require the military to ensure that each branch of the service procure and distribute body armor designed to fit women, so they get the level of protection they need and deserve.
Sen. Ernst and others argue that this issue has been overlooked and continues to present serious problems for females facing combat. They say the military has failed to progress beyond protective gear that’s always been designed for men.
“Women are continuing to make great strides while serving in all branches of our nation’s military. As a combat veteran who commanded troops in Iraq, who has a daughter currently in training at West Point, I know how important it is to have the proper protective gear. All service members deserve this on the battlefield,” Sen. Ernst stated on Wednesday.
Poorly fitting body armor and protective gear is not only uncomfortable to wear, it’s one of the leading causes of injury among all service members. There have been improvements made over the years that have reduced some risks, but a lot more needs to be done.
Co-sponsors include Sens. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, and Tammy Duckworth an Illinois Democrat.
Ill-fitting gear poses additional challenges that go beyond protecting service members from being injured on the field. Studies show that inadequate equipment often leads to deeper concerns within military units in all services.
The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Armed Services issued a report recently that stated, “Properly fitting equipment affects morale as well as unit cohesion. Research done by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury shows that military units where members were more likely to suffer injury were not as cohesive and did worse on cognitive tasks.” The report went on to say that, “Early access to gear that fit properly can not only keep members healthy, it also increases their effectiveness and makes them more mission-ready.”
The bipartisan bill, if passed, requires each branch of the service to do more research and to collaborate with academia and the body armor industry in the development of the next generation of protective equipment and gear. It also requires that accurate records be kept of all injuries resulting from ill-fitting or malfunctioning equipment.