97 SFS Receives Body Armor for Women > Air Education and Training Command > View Article

Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma Female Airmen from the 97th Security Forces Squadron received their first batch of newly manufactured and issued female-specific body armor in early March 2021. The FBA provides increased mobility, load-carrying support and comfort while still providing coverage for vital organs.

The new gear is part of an initiative by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and was created by the Women’s Gear Program Office, whose mission is to identify equipment and uniform issues and quickly find solutions to better equip female Airmen.

“I think it’s a great thing, and now women are finally getting the representation they need and getting equipment that fits them well and is comfortable,” said Agent Allison Shaker, 97th Security Forces Company Investigative Bureau officer.

According to the contract, the FBA effort will provide female security forces defenders with a modular, scalable ballistic vest system that provides various levels of protection against fragmentation, handgun and small arms threats.

“Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long to get this,” Shaker said. “I’ve been in this business for four years and I’ve seen everything from second chance vests with H-harnesses to older vests, and this is the best vest we’ve ever had.”

The contract further states that the FBA initiative is a four-tiered system that allows commanders to tailor the level of protection for female defenders to suit different mission profiles while allowing female defenders to tailor the fit to their physical characteristics and better integrate with existing equipment. This includes hard armor to protect vital organs (heart, liver, lungs, kidneys) and soft armor to protect the torso and extremities (neck, shoulders, groin, knee joints, elbow joints).

“Previously we only had one chest plate option, but the new armor comes with a variety of plate carrier configurations and is better suited for the female body,” said Airman 1st Class Alonza Barnes, 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron personal protective equipment master technician. “A lot of the women who come in to get their new armor are excited and say, ‘I can’t tell you how much of a difference this is going to make.'”

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