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Female soldiers to field-test new body armor in Afghanistan

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Uniforms not quite suited to the female figure have long been a problem in the military, but now, with women taking on combat roles, there are further considerations in getting properly fitting body armor.

Nineteen of the newly-designed vests rolled out Tuesday at Fort Campbell will go to Afghanistan soon when the 101st Airborne Division’s female engagement team deploys.

Maneuverability, including exiting vehicles and bending, are all considerations when designing gear that keeps soldiers safe and functional. The female soldiers will "test drive" the new body armor and provide feedback to the design team.

Shorter and more form-fitting, the new tactical vest is “strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.”

Started by the U.S. Marines in 2004, female engagement teams, reach out to the 50 percent of the Afghan population that is prohibited by Muslim doctrine and culture, from speaking with men; including U.S. soldiers who often need to question women they encounter in villages.

Female engagement teams have provided a “vehicle” for gathering and disseminating information to villagers in a way not possible by their male counterparts. Volunteering for a FET is not without risk. There have been several troop losses in Afghanistan on female engagement teams.

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