New body armor specifically tailored for women is arriving at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico — part of a larger effort within the Air Force to provide women better-fitting equipment.
Female airmen with the 377th Security Forces started receiving the new body armor in January, the Air Force said in a news release Feb. 17. Unlike the armor designed for men, the new body armor features several key changes to better accommodate women.
“The new female body armor is different from our current standard tactical vest,” Master Sgt. Brianne N. Trapani, 377th Security Support Squadron superintendent, said in the news release. “The new one is lighter, has a curved chest plate and a shorter torso size.”
Additionally, the vest includes an adjustable back and comes in various sizes. All female security forces at Kirtland will receive the new equipment, the service said.
The Air Force announced in June 2020 that TSSi of Harrisonburg, Virginia, had won the body-armor contract to supply the Aspetto “Mach V” system, which was deemed the best solution in terms of price, effectiveness and fit for women. The initiative stems from a 2018 directive from then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein to examine various equipment, including boots and flight suits, that were originally crafted for men but are used by both men and women now.
“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.”
Several lawmakers have raised concerns that ill-fitting equipment jeopardizes the safety of female service members.
“When I was serving overseas, I experienced firsthand how our military’s body armor and protective equipment hasn’t always been constructed with the health and comfort of female servicemembers in mind,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said in 2019.
Duckworth, who deployed to Iraq as a member of the Army National Guard, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation requiring the Defense Health Agency to use a trackable system to keep count of injuries resulting from poorly fitted gear, and likewise, share a report with Congress in FY2025 on how common these injuries are.
The legislation was wrapped into the National Defense Authorization Act that passed in January.
The Air Force has also made strides to allow women more variety for how they style their hair. Last month, the service announced that it was authorizing women to wear their hair in one or two braids, or a single ponytail.
Additionally, those who wear bangs may grow them out to touch their eyebrows -- so long as the eyes are not covered.