In the Spring 2022 issue of Army AL&T Magazine, Maureena Thompson, a writer with the U.S. Army Futures Command, writes that the U.S. Army involves soldiers at all levels to provide feedback about the development and designing of new gear and equipment in order to modernize and better equip the American soldier.
Soldier touch points, as the Army calls them, are immersive testing and feedback mechanisms through which Soldiers can provide valuable insights on how certain tools or equipment undergoing development will be used practically in the field. The Army is using these touch points as it pursues a series of signature modernization systems to ensure any new solutions that are embraced are functional, durable and expertly tailored to the needs of Soldiers.
Besides weapon systems, the U.S. Army also has scientists, engineers and designers who provide warfighters with uniforms and clothing items. Within the last couple of years the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) has, thanks to feedback from the field, produced and now issues specific undergarments for pregnant and nursing women. However the most basic of undergarments for many, the brassiere, is still purchased off the rack by soldiers themselves to worn for daily use, both at home and in the war zone. Current Army regulations states:
Brassieres and underpants (female).
(1) Type. Brassieres and underpants are a one-time cash allowance purchase as part of the initial clothing bag allowance.
(2) Description. Brassieres and underpants may be of a commercial design, in white, black, or other neutral colors that are not readily apparent when worn under the uniform. The category of brassieres also includes sports bras.
(3) How worn. Females will wear brassieres and underpants with all uniforms.
Army scientists are hoping to rectify this and are working to create a tactical brassiere specifically designed for professional soldiers.
Last year DEVCOM, using the touch point system, issued out four different prototypes of the Army Tactical Brassiere (ATB). Hyegjoo E. Choi-Rokas, an engineering psychologist, reports that the process started with assessing commercial off the shelf “sports brassieres were assessed to investigate the effects of different design features on fit, mobility…and comfort.” Prototypes were then built and tested in a controlled setting before being sent out to the field for testing by 200 soldiers in four different geographic locations earlier this year.
ATB development began with seeking input from female Soldiers
on what type of functionality and preferences should be considered during initial prototype design. Given that the ATB is a tactical rather than sportswear item, it will need to integrate well with equipment and body armor, providing enhanced protection and performance in addition to an ideal fit. This means that designers are evaluating options such as the inclusion of flame retardant fabrics and expertly layered compression, structural and protective materials while also taking into account the importance of accurate sizing, reliable comfort, moisture management and breathability.
“The overall goal is to produce garments that not only protect the user, but reduce the cognitive burden on the female Soldier caused by discomfort and ill fit,” said Ashley Cushon, clothing designer and project lead for the ATB at the DEVCOM Soldier Center. “Achieving this will improve the Soldier’s overall readiness and performance levels, allowing them to focus on their mission,” she explained.
Reaching this goal is a multiphase process that requires the involvement of designers, subject matter experts and Soldiers.
“Developing well-fitting patterns is a skill that exists at the crossroads of technical art and science,” Cushon said. “It requires
understanding body shape, growth points and the relationship
between 2D elements and 3D objects. Just as commercial sports
brassiere items tend to cater to targeted consumer groups, designers worked closely with the anthropometrists and engineering
psychologists to conduct pilot studies that helped to validate the
size tariff within the female Soldier population and extract body
scan dimensions to build out the first prototypes to fit the Army’s
median size. Understanding that sports brassieres incorporate
various structural elements as they increase or decrease in sizing,
final results from the studies will inform [the Program Executive
Office for] Soldier and ultimately the Army Uniform Board, so
that a determination can be made on the Army’s path forward
for best equipping female Soldiers for their missions.”
While the ATB is still in the development phase, the prototype team hopes to present it to the Army Uniform Board later this year, said Jeff Sisto, a public affairs officer with Soldier Center, according to a report by the Army Times.
Header photo: U.S. Army photo courtesy U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usaasc/51982980532/in/album-72177720297872860/