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US military developing better armor for female troops, takes a nod from Xena: The Warrior Princess

For female sergeants in the United States military, being a woman comes with all sorts of physical issues against the general male soldiers. Aside from incomparable physical strength, the female anatomy also adds to the difficulty of performing well because body armors are generally designed for the male body. Though females make up 14 percent of the army’s active troops, none are officially allowed in combat. Still, women do have jobs that require close proximity to the front line but because of their body curvatures, armors do not fit them as well. This diminishes the flexibility of movement, and could risk their lives should they become engaged toward the front line.

To address the problem, the US military is attempting to develop a better body armor to suit female soldiers and their anatomies, adding stronger protection in the battlefield. Taking a cue from inspirations by “Xena: The Warrior Princess,” the female armor will be engineered to fit curves in the chest and hip areas, as well as shorter general torso length. To alleviate the weight of the armor, the military has also developed “unique chemical designs” to create plates that can conform to different body shapes. Previous editions of the armor worn by female troops, designed for men, are said to rub in curvier areas, affecting the performance of a soldier.

“It rubbed on the hips, and the vests were too long in the front, so that when you had female soldiers climbing stairs or climbing up a hill or a tree, or sitting for a long time in a vehicle, that would create pressure points that in some instances could impact blood flow and cause some discomfort,” Lt. Col. Frank Lozano, a contributor to the development of female body armor, told Christian Science Monitor.

Natasha Young, a female sergeant who was deployed to Iraq in 2007, complained of similar issues in her first hand experience. She said she had even researched to purchase better suits online, but found little to no availability. “[Most armor are] not designed for a woman, so it’s uncomfortable and it fits improperly,” Young says of the 11 options of male armor sizes from which she is offered. “I really don’t think there was a market for [female armors] at the time.”

Approximately 100 female soldiers 101st Airborne Division who will soon be deployed to Afghanistan have already tested eight new sizes developed by the military. Though that may still seems like a relatively small market, these specially designed armors — including ones with narrower shoulders and “bra-shaped darting” in the chest — were met with positive reviews. The issue now lies on government budgeting to mass produce such armors after cuts in defense-spending. If we’re going to put female at war, it’s only right to allow them to perform as well as they can without letting gender be an issue.

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