The U.S. Air Force 55th Security Forces Squadron recently issued new body armor to Offutt defenders. What makes this piece of safety equipment special is it was designed to better protect females. For years, female defenders have worn the standard tactical vest issued to them. These standard vests come in different chest sizes and are basically flat. They were not designed with the female body frame in mind. In June 2020 the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Female Fitment Program contracted TSSi out of Harrisburg, Virginia, to design and manufacture a better fitting vest for females to prevent exposure to the hazards of combat and daily operations. The new body armor costs approximately $1,200 per vest. One hundred new vests arrived at the 55th Logistics Readiness Squadron April 29 and were made available for issue to the 25 Offutt female defenders at the end of May 2021.
“The standard vest was very loose and when you get into a situation where you need to run, it isn’t form fitting, so things move and get jostled around easily. The standard vest really had no pressure or tight fit in the upper chest area. The new vest is extremely snug. When I run in a situation now, I am not worried about my vest getting jostled around,” said 1st Lt. Madison Wilke, 55th SFS Training officer in charge.
“The fit is snugger. It feels like the upper part of the vest wraps around a little more. I do feel a little more protected; it is shaped to contour more to my body. It’s very considerate of the Air Force to do this for us females. It makes our lives easier,” said Airman 1st Class Samantha Boyer, 55th SFS defender.
The new vests come in sizes small, medium, large and extra large, and they have a curved chest plate to accommodate the female shape. They are adjustable and have a snap buckle instead of Velcro. They are well padded and have options to adjust to fit. Female defenders have the option of switching to the new armor or keeping the standard vest. It is considered a “home station issue” item, so any female currently deployed will have the option to wear the new one once they are back at Offutt. Wearing proper fitting safety gear is important for the health, comfort level and safety for day-to-day operations, such as driving around in patrol cars, standing guard at the Offutt gates or aircraft, or handling a military working dog. These situations require flexibility and quick response movements for a defender to do the job and maintain the overall mission.