As part of the military’s ongoing efforts to accommodate soldiers of all shapes and sizes, the U.S. Army is in the process of developing the Army Tactical Brassiere (ATB). Prototypes are currently undergoing testing at the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (DEVCOM) in Natick, Mass.
The ATB design and development process kicked off with a soldier-centric survey administered through Soldier Touchpoints. “Soldier touch points…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,” explains the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center (USAASC):
DEVCOM Soldier Center began issuing prototype sports bras to female Soldiers in October and November as part of a touch point designed to assess whether new, high-impact sports brassiere concepts developed as part of the Army Tactical Brassiere (ATB) program would provide optimum support, durability and comfort for combat and training use.
“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.
Female soldiers weighed in on the qualities and functionality they were looking for in their over-the-shoulder holsters, and the goal of developing a “tactical rather than sportswear item” was established.
The prototypes were then designed with integration into existing uniform and body armor in mind. As per Touchpoints, “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 four ATB prototypes currently undergoing evaluation include pullover and front-zip styles featuring sports bra-style or cross-back straps, contour seaming, and varying levels of compression.
After evaluating the ATB prototypes, the Soldier Center’s Design Pattern Prototype Team is scheduled to present preliminary findings to the Army Uniform Board in the fall. At that point, the ATB would become an official program of record.
“If the AUB makes it a program of record, we would want to promote that as a [Soldier Center] accomplishment and win for female Soldiers across the Army,” Jeff Sisto, a public affairs officer with Soldier Center, told Army Times in an email.
USAASC explains the next steps:
DEVCOM plans to collect data on the experiences of the more than 200 female Soldiers wearing the ATBs, who are located at Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Benning, Georgia and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, between December 2021 and March 2022. The process will inform performance and integration of the ATBs, as well as help designers and researchers assess which design attributes are most appropriate for military use. Feedback on improvements will be used to determine design direction for future iteration.
It’s all part of outfitting today’s modern, more equitable U.S. Military!
The effort serves as a complement to other, ongoing efforts to provide military uniform options that fit Soldiers of all body types, including those who are pregnant or nursing. For example, the Soldier Center’s Soldier Protection Directorate recently worked with the Marine Corps and Air Force to develop versatile maternity uniforms that help ensure warfighters have access to military garments that fit well and are functional throughout pregnancy. Touch points conducted throughout the process informed multiple redesigns and improvements.
Let’s hope Nancy Pelosi didn’t piss off the Chinese too much with her little jaunt the other day.