39th LRS delivers female specific IPE to defenders
By Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey, 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 22, 2021
INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --
The 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron received its first shipment of female specific protective wear, the Aspetto Mach V Female Body Armor System, as part of the U.S. Air Force Materiel Command’s Female Fitment Program, Jan. 12, 2021.
The FF program was created several years ago, by then Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, to address the equipment performance issues experienced by women serving in roles that had job-specific gear requirements, such as security forces, pilots and air crews, firefighting and explosives ordnance disposal.
The 39th LRS team helped mark the occasion by hand-delivering some of the new vests to female base Defenders at the 39th Security Forces Squadron armory during a ‘guard mount’ where defenders going on duty procure equipment for the day.
“The LRS team are my heroes today,” said Col. Shelly L. Mendieta, 39th Air Base Wing vice commander. “We have hundreds of front-line Airmen here and many thousands across the Air Force, so it’s absolutely essential that they get the gear they need to complete the mission. The logistics and supply chain are critical to accomplishing that and our LRS team fought to get this gear for us so others may be safely equipped and ready to fight.”
Twelve women defenders got to try on the new vests and expressed their praise, citing that the old armor made long shifts, consistent physical movement and carrying extensive amounts of heavy equipment much tougher for them.
“This new vest is much more secure and fits better,” said Airman 1st Class Desi Virginia Moorefield, 39th SFS security response team member. “It doesn’t chafe around the shoulders or neck area; there’s more padding and it holds weight against my chest instead of hanging over my stomach area and sides. If we’re not comfortable, it gets in the way of accomplishing what we must do, so I think this is a positive move in the right direction.”
Women comprise more than 20 percent of all Airmen serving in the U.S. Air Force, yet most clothing and gear previously issued was predominately male-body type centered or unisex.
“This is by far the best fit I’ve experienced in my entire career,” Chief Master Sgt. Janee Walker, 39th Security Forces Squadron chief enlisted manager. “I’ve done SFS work for 26 years, so I’ve worked in flak vests, in improved outer tactical vests, interceptor body armor and plate carriers. This hugs my shoulders and waist where I need it to and it’s not sitting on my hips or legs … I could do physical training in this, and I know I would perform better on the shooting range too. This vest’s mobility is going to allow our defenders to be more capable.”
The FF program’s immediate focus is on frontline Airmen, yet the goal is to eventually provide better fitting individual protective equipment issued to all women throughout the Air Force.
“If I had to choose between the old and this new vest, I’d choose this new one, as it's light and sits perfectly,” said Airman 1st Class Shianne Chacon, 39th LRS journeyman. “Incirlik is the first overseas location to receive these women specific gear and I think this will lessen stress and level the playing field a bit to help them perform.”
Air Force leaders have spent years searching and developing ways to improve the readiness of its Airmen, which includes training, morale, basic needs and quality gear amongst other concerns. Surveys, work groups and local command engagements with Airmen has helped to uncover ways to improve overall ability and career quality. Inclusive consideration of women’s needs showed that ill-fitting gear was a common complaint.
“Leaders need Airman feedback in order to seek out improvements like this,” Mendieta said. “I ask the women getting this new vest to share their thoughts on it, and with any other issues that hinder their ability to serve, with their chain-of-command so that we can continue to strive for a better, more inclusive and ready force.”
The Air Force is dedicated to making Airmen’s contributions feel valued and enable them to be more combat effective and ready each day. Efforts to reduce injuries, improve morale and increase effectiveness is an ongoing part of the mission to have Airmen ready to fly, fight and win.