F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
Airmen from the 90th Security Forces Group were among the first to try on the new female body armor at Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Individual Personal Equipment Section, Dec. 11, 2020 on F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.
The equipment differs from the standard tactical vest significantly, with a more curved chest surface area, lighter weight and shorter size, and the use of a snap buckle compared to the original Velcro, according to 1st Lt. Nicole Murphy from the 90 LRS and the Installation Deployment Officer. More than 500 vests were delivered to F. E. Warren.
“Outfitting the security forces members who protect the ICBM mission is a priority,” said Murphy. “We are conducting a test run by giving female troops the Improved Outer Tactical Vest to ensure it meets mission standards, then outfit all security forces troops on base.”
The IOTV is going through a test run and at three other Air Force bases: Malmtrom AFB, Mont., Minot AFB, N.D., and Moody AFB, Ga.
The first Airmen to try on the IOTV noted its benefits over the standard body armor produced with the male frame in mind.
The first Airman to try it on, Staff Sgt. Amber Alderman from the 90th Missile Security Operations Squadron, acknowledged that trying it on was not the same as wearing the armor operationally; however, she was hopeful that it would be beneficial to female defenders to better execute the mission.
“It’s a bit difficult to get a good gauge on how it feels without everything on it,” said Alderman. “I’m hopeful that since it’s geared toward females it will be more comfortable.”
The expectation of the body armor is that it will better fit the female frame, countering a common problem of ill-fitting armor that can cause discomfort or even injury.
“On any given day, Defenders wear required gear for 12-13 hours, and when the gear doesn’t fit properly, it takes a toll on the body,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mary Trent, Security Forces Manager for the 90th Security Forces Squadron. “This new equipment is going to provide female Defenders needed relief and not be a distraction from being able to focus on the mission.”
Female Defenders will now be able to choose armor made with their frame as the standard, keeping them from having to select a size that was the next closest size available.
“Typically women are forced to go up a size to accommodate the armor fitting their chest and the gear ends up being too loose, leaving unevenly distributed weight; or, we are forced to downsize leaving our mid-sections exposed,” said MSgt Alana Lynn, of the 90th Security Forces Squadron. “As Defenders, we are often plagued with back and knee issues due to our gear and the way it is worn, but with better fitting gear, lighter and designed to fit our body, there is a potential for fewer injuries while allowing females to be more focused on their job rather than constantly being uncomfortable.”
In addition to the overall readiness benefit, there is also a tactical benefit while firing a weapon.
“Firing from a prone position is difficult with improper fitting gear and being able to find that sweet spot for the butt of your weapon to sit is often times difficult,” said Lynn. “However, new body armor designed for women will increase our lethality and allow for a more comfortable and controlled shot.”
The rollout across the Air Force will consist of several phases, with the last bases expected to receive the armor in fiscal year 2022. The 536 vests received by the wing will be disseminated to the female defenders across the six security forces squadrons, according to Murphy, which will in turn create a more capable, lethal defender force ensuring nuclear surety.
The creation and procurement of the female IOTV was a collaboration between The Human Systems Division of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, the Air Force Materiel Command’s Combat Ready Airmen office and the Air Force Security Forces Center.