Army Combat Uniform may have female-only version in 2014
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 25, 2010) -- Female Soldiers may be wearing a more form-fitting version of the Army Combat Uniform featuring more room in the hips and legs by 2014, according to developers at Program Executive Office Soldier.

PEO Soldier, which develops and tests new equipment for the Army, has been interested in creating a version of the ACU more suited to a woman's body since 2005. After listening to focus groups of female Soldiers in 2008, PEO Soldier learned some features of the ACU bother women: over-sized shoulder seams, baggy overall shape, and its non curve-friendly fit.

"Women have so many different shapes and sizes, we're as not as 'straight' as men are," said Maj. Sequana Robinson, assistant product manager for uniforms at PEO Soldier, who is currently testing one of the female-only ACUs.

Robinson admitted that when she first heard of the new test uniform, she doubted the need for a female fit.

"Once I put the uniform on, I immediately loved it," she said. "The first thing I did when I tried on the uniform was to lift my knees up and squat because I don't want something hugging or showing the contour of my body ... it has even more room than I thought."

Changes being evaluated in PEO's re-designed uniform include 13 sizes in both the jacket and trousers, an elastic waistband, a more spacious hip area, a shortened crotch length, a more tailored jacket, and re-positioned rank and name tapes.

About 500 women were measured to determine needed adjustments, and 600 female Soldiers are slotted to receive the uniform for a user evaluation starting in January 2011, explained Kelly Fratelli, the project engineer responsible for the women's ACU.

Once the uniform has been evaluated, it will need to be approved by the Army Uniform Board before being issued to troops.

Martin Fadden, a uniforms assistant product manager at PEO Soldier said women in the Army are sometimes hesitant to complain because they don't want to stand out or be seen as different.

"Female Soldiers just want to blend in," Fadden said, but noted that he thinks the uniform will be a hit. "I think, based on what we've seen the new uniform will improve morale."

Robinson agreed.

"I think the initial reaction to it would be 'we don't need it,' but once you try it on you'll see it makes a world of difference," she said. "I think that all female Soldiers will be very pleased and proud to wear this uniform."

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