Fort Sill, OK (U.S. Army) — A new Army Combat Uniform with special consideration to the female form is now at Fort Sill, and it is being issued to new Soldiers going through Basic Combat Training.
The new uniform, several years in the making, was initially considered as being the first female-only uniform, but instead is now approved for both sexes and is being called ACU-A for Army Combat Uniform-Alternate.
"We started issuing them slowly in April, and we've since been issuing them more frequently as our fitters get more comfortable placing Soldiers in them," said Trevor Whitworth, Central Initial Issue Point project manager, where new Soldiers are first issued their uniforms here.
"They were initially designed for female Soldiers, but we were told if we find male Soldiers that these would fit better than the ACUs then we can issue it to them as well," Whitworth said. "It's more about the fit and the body type."
The new uniform trousers feature: wider areas at the hips, waist and backside; elastic around the waistband instead of a pull string; adjusted pockets and knee-pad inserts; and a shortened crotch length.
In the jackets, changes include: adjusted rank and nametape positioning; adjusted pockets and elbow-pad inserts; slimmer shoulders; a thinner and more fitted waist; and a longer and wider ACU coat bottom. Also, buttons are replacing the Velcro pockets.
"If it makes you more comfortable in wearing that, then I think it's well worth it," Whitworth said. "When you're low crawling or doing a lot of physical training it's nice to have a pair of trousers that have a little give-and-take in them. I think having made uniforms for a female body type, will make a big difference for female Soldiers."
Compared to the original ACUs, which were designed principally by males for males, the new ACU-As were created to fit a wider range of body types; so there are also a lot more sizes to choose from 13 sizes in both the jacket and trouser.
"The old uniform was meant to be one size fits five sizes; these are more tailored ," Whitworth said.
First Lt. Beatriz George, Reynolds Army Community Hospital dietitian, said she thinks it's great to have more sizes to choose from. She added when Fort Sill gets the uniforms at the Military Clothing Sales store she will try them on and consider buying a pair.
"With our uniforms now, its like it's either too tight or too big; it doesn't feel right as they are now," George said.
Although interested in the new uniforms, she said if they were created to be noticeably different, she wouldn't want to wear them.
"What's great about the military is that everyone is equal, and it's one of the few professions where men and women are paid the same, but if you can't tell, and they are unisex, then I'm OK with it," George said.
Program Executive Office Soldier, the program that develops and improves military uniforms and equipment, developed the new uniforms by letting male and female Soldiers wear the uniform and provide feedback. This came about after a 2008 focus group of female Soldiers showed PEO Soldier that ACUs have a non-female friendly fit.
Many females in the focus group reported that the knee-pad inserts fell on their shins, that they didn't have as much mobility because of the poor fit, and that they felt they had an overall unprofessional appearance.
Maj. Sequana Robinson, who was one of many that tested the new uniform, said in a PEO Soldier press release that she was very skeptical when first hearing of the uniforms; she didn't think women needed a uniform more fitted to their bodies, but after trying it on the first time, she was very pleased with the fit.
PEO Soldier is also in the process of developing a female body armor and female flight suit, which are still in development stages.
New black and yellow PT uniforms are also in the development stages, and a new improved duffle bag, which includes a zipper, has just been released and is being issued to basic training Soldiers.
ACU-As are now available for all Soldiers at posts including: Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lee, Va.; Fort Belvoir, Va.; and Fort Eustis, Va., but Fort Sill's Military Clothing Sales Store does not carry them yet.
"Clothing Sales at Fort Sill wont have the uniforms available until sometime near the end of the year," said Henrietta Haughton, a manager at the Fort Sill Military Clothing Sales Store .
Although the ACU-A is not yet available for purchase brand new at Fort Sill, Whitworth recommends that Soldiers start coming to the reclamation sales they hold every month. The reclamation sell is where Soldiers can buy uniforms lightly used by trainees who do not complete Basic Combat Training.
Because the CIIP here just started issuing the new ACU-As in April, Soldiers might start to see a few of these uniforms at reclamation sales starting in August, Whitworth said. He urged Soldiers to get to the sale early, because uniforms go fast.