The U.S. Army is finally getting around to field-testing body armor for women. Who said the Army is full of hurry-up-and-wait? In this case, it's been mostly wait. It took till the summer of 2012 before the brass figured out that not all bodies are the same, so not all body armor should be. Now that the fall of 2012 is upon us, the brass is thinking about testing armor for female types in the field. Turning around a massive operation like the U.S. Army would make reversing the course of an ocean liner child's play.
In preparation of their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan (be safe and thank you), female troops with the 101st Airborne out of Fort Campbell have been issued armored vests that actually fit. How about that? Before now, they - along with every other grunt in this woman's Army - were issued body armor built for bigger necks and longer torsos, which had the effect of cutting off circulation to the legs on long rides or hampering the ladies' ability to shoulder a rifle. Or the armor might just fall off if they weren't standing perfectly upright. None of which sounds good if bullets or shrapnel are whizzing by.
After complaints by some of those who make up 14 percent of the U.S. Army, the military developed a newer version of the body armor. It'll see its first action in combat during the 101st's deployment. The brass will wait to see what these soldiers of the female variety have to say about the new body armor before starting large-scale production.
So far, the critiques are raves.
Gilliann Campbell is a specialist with the 101st - and a former gymnast. She says she can do cartwheels in her new armor. Literally.
"I remember as a joke, my friends tipped me upside down and my old armor fell right off me," she said. "It didn't fit me at all. But with this, I did a cartwheel when I first got it and it did not move at all."
What's more, she noted, she had enough shoulder room to fire her weapon. We're glad to hear it. Anybody who cares about our troops would be.
Women aren't allowed in most of the military jobs that are categorized as "Front Unit" outfits. (Think infantry or armor.) But when was the last time there were real front lines in combat? Was it the Second World War? Korea? Today's wars certainly have no such lines. Which means female soldiers need as much protection as their male counterparts, including body armor.
Which is soon to be tested.
In the year 2012.
It's just too bad that our brave female troops had to wait so long.
Wear it in good health, ladies.