• ACU-Alternate uniform offers more fit options

    By Spc. Danielle Gregory

     

    FORT SILL, Okla. – 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 (CIIP) 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 and now provides 13 sizes to choose from in both the jacket and trouser.

    “The old uniform was meant to be one size fits five sizes; these are more tailored,” Whitworth said.

    1st 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, it’s 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 (PEO) Soldier, the office that develops and improves military uniforms and equipment, developed the new uniforms using feedback provided directly from male and female Soldiers who wore the uniform. 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 physical training 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 won’t 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.


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  • Faces of the Force

    Template for Faces of the Force

    Passion and past deployments drive Soldier’s development of protective gear

     

    By Teresa Mikulsky Purcell

     

    FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?

    LOZANO: I am currently the program manager for Soldier Protective Equipment. My portfolio includes hard and soft body armor plates and vests as well as combat helmets, ballistic eyewear, concealable body armor, pelvic protection, and traumatic brain injury helmet sensors. Our products are literally the Soldier’s first line of defense, protecting them from a myriad of blast and ballistic threats. What we do saves lives; it doesn’t get any more important than that.

    FOTF: How have your Army career and deployments helped you in your current role?

    LOZANO: I spent nine years as an armor officer and during my previous deployment to Iraq, I remember being on my tank with my gear on and being disappointed that equipment wasn’t upgraded fast enough. That’s what motivates me: I don’t want to be that guy the Soldiers in the field are disappointed in because I’m not providing them with what they need. Since I’ve been in my current position, I’ve been adamant about traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan to interact with our Soldiers in the fight to get a really good feel for what aspects of our gear are working and what aspects need improvement. Constant user interface is critical to this job.

    FOTF: How do you go about developing the right piece of protective equipment for Soldiers?

    LOZANO: There isn’t one cookie-cutter type shape or size that works for the whole realm of Soldiers we serve, and every Solider has strong opinions about what he wears. So we spend a lot of time with them—immediately after upgrades are engineered—to take into account their feedback. We call this the “human factor perspective.”

    We feel like we are in a constant state of improvement, working on a 9 to 12-month cycle that often includes two or three iterative design and upgrade phases. We’re really good at the “bread and butter drill”—design, test, validate. We do this as quickly as possible to continually integrate equipment upgrades.

    FOTF: What impacts you the most about your job on a personal level?

    Lt. Col. Frank Lozano shares a moment with some of his team members during a recent meeting. (Photo by Michael Clayton, PEO Soldier)

    LOZANO: Occasionally, I go to the military medical centers at Fort Sam Houston or Bethesda to meet with what we call “the saves”—Soldiers who have seen treacherous combat and are recovering from injuries. That’s the hardest part for me. When I meet with Soldiers and families who have been through these traumatic events, they tell me they’re honestly grateful for the equipment our team has fielded because they were wearing it and it works. That’s rewarding to hear, but it’s also sorrowful. It grounds me and motivates me to work harder and do everything humanly possible to provide the best equipment possible.

    FOTF: What is your biggest challenge, and how have you overcome it?

    LOZANO: The most challenging aspect of my job holistically is stakeholder management. There are a lot of people involved in body armor processes, from buying and testing to fielding. Managing product timelines with vendors and interacting with Army senior leaders, congressional representatives, and members of the media are also very demanding tasks—this is a real “hot button topic.”

    The best way I know how to handle this is to gather the most reliable data regarding their concerns and communicate in an honest, humble manner. Sometimes, I can’t sugarcoat things. For example, everyone wants body armor to be lighter, so do I, but it takes time to safely mature new technologies that will enable lighter weight body armor. We have numerous developmental programs underway to make this happen. Our body armor today, right now, is absolutely as light as it can be to protect against the family of threats and harsh conditions it is expected to survive, and that’s what I tell them, because protecting the Soldier is of paramount importance.

    FOTF: How has your program been recognized?

    LOZANO: Based on the tremendous work my team has done to protect Soldiers, our Pelvic Protection System won the 2012 Army Acquisition Excellence Award. It was also a 2011 Top Ten Army’s Greatest Inventions award winner, along with our Helmet Sensor Program and Soldier Plate Carrier System. We do everything we can to provide Soldiers with the best equipment the world has ever seen. I don’t mean to boast, but I believe this is 100 percent true. I’ve seen and shot at body armor produced by other countries, and ours is superior, so much so that we are doing some foreign military sales of approved versions of our body armor. Other countries are leveraging the technology we have developed in the United States because they understand that we produce and accept only the best for our Soldiers.

    Watch Lt. Col. Lozano on YouTube demonstrating the Improved Outer Tactical Vest and Pelvic Protection System.

    Read about the 2011 Army’s Greatest Inventions in AL&T Magazine.

    For more information, visit PEO Soldier.


    • “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines are featured every other week. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.

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  • Beyond protection: Army Research Laboratory investigates next-level pelvic, groin protection

    The BCB Protective Under Garment shown here on a mannequin is one of the pelvic protection systems developed by Program Executive Office Soldier. (Photo courtesy of PEO Soldier)

    T’Jae Gibson

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD. (Nov. 14, 2012) — New ballistic research areas are filling a critical gap in troop pelvic protection systems, said U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) engineers.

    No standard scientific methodology currently exists to assess the performance of personal protection equipment (PPE) against secondary debris, such as flying rocks, and bomb fragments ejected after a buried improvised explosive device (IED) detonates, said Tyrone Jones, a mechanical engineer in ARL’s, Weapons and Materials Research Directorate (WMRD).

    ARL teamed with the Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, Joint IED Defeat Organization and the British Ministry of Defence to provide the Army with a technical tool to evaluate the PPE against this spectrum of threats.

    “Fundamentally, our role in this is to understand the underpinning science and technology of the threat itself, how explosive charges interact with the soil then with the target, but also the fundamental mechanical properties of the materials that are acquired to stop these threats.”

    In 2010, ARL began developing a novel lab scale test methodology to reproduce the soil conditions from buried IEDs, and then consistently launch the surrogate soils via a sabot from a medium-caliber smooth-bore gun, called the sand cannon.

    The test methodology quantifies the debris-resistant performance of various fabrics such as Kevlar and jersey-knitted silk, to be integrated into current PPE within a highly controlled environment. From here, Jones said, researchers can understand and readily identify the penetration mechanisms of the secondary debris into a prospect material.

    ARL tested candidate materials provided by NSRDC leading to an improvement in the “ballistic boxer shorts” the military fielded last summer under its formal name, the Pelvic Protection System, as a response to the growing number of Soldiers on foot patrol sustaining injuries to the groin caused by IED blasts, and secondary debris. As of March 2012, more than 15,000 Soldiers had received the Army’s Pelvic Protection System.

    The previous pelvic protection system was designed to protect against numerous and obvious Soldier threats, including small arms fire, thermal and environmental, but much of it can’t fully stand up against the tiniest of culprits — soil particulate and small debris — that en masse, can cause irreversible medical damage to soft tissue to include internal bleeding.

    “Wound management is a critical part of medical care for dismounted Soldiers that are injured by buried IEDs,” said Jones. “Secondary debris, including soil ejecta, from buried explosive devices can lead to severe contamination and debridement issues for wounds and adds to the complexity of the first response care of stabilizing the primary wound.”

    Col. James Jezior, Chief of Urology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda said it’s not too difficult to tell the difference between a blast injury and a high velocity or gunshot wound type injury.

    “The patterns of injury are much different between the two,” Jezior said. “Whether we see the fragments from the actual armament or whether there is secondary debris from things around or from the vehicle or from clothes, I don’t think that’s quite as easy to tell. It’s probably in many of the cases a mixture of those things that are eventually embedded in tissue or are part of the injury mechanism.”

    Dismounted Soldiers on patrol in Logar province, Afghanistan, shown here, are more vulnerable to buried improvised explosive devices. (Photo by Spc. Richard Jones)

    ABOUT THE SCIENCE
    Secondary debris testing involves complete analysis of live-fire blast data and soil mechanics, in addition to knowledge and experience in ballistics.

    “ARL is the world leader in the characterization of blast, soil effects and terminal ballistic effects caused by fragments and secondary debris,” Jones said. “With this fundamental understanding, ARL is able to design repeatable methods and procedures to simulate these blast conditions in order to develop protection solutions.”

    From the science, ARL is able to identify the relevant dynamic soil components and variables that inflict the damage on target during live-fire blast testing, and translate these components and variables into a debris simulant that can be consistently reproduced in a laboratory environment.

    Typical sand-cannon tests involve a 25.4mm smooth-bore barrel gun firing “surrogate” soil load into a ballistic gelatin block designed to represent a body surrogate. Candidate materials were placed in front of the gelatin block. The soil “cloud” travels through the material and into the gelatin block. The amount of soil retained by the gelatin block and the depth of penetration into gelatin block gives a measure of insult, or damage the secondary debris can cause.

    “Bulk aggregate presents a very different threat than a discrete fragment or rock,” said Jones. “We are investigating how this threat interacts with a spectrum of materials, focusing on personal protective equipment and clothing so that revolutionary protective material breakthroughs can be achieved.”

    Jones said surrogate soil is actually a 36-grit garnet abrasive blasting particulate selected because of its consistency of grain size and distribution, lack of moisture variability, individual grain hardness, availability in bulk, and easily obtainable specification.

    “We use a high speed Phantom v7.1 video camera to capture the dynamic elements such as grit cloud flyer diameter and length, velocity and depth of penetration into the gelatin up to 160,000 frames per second. The high speed video camera captures the launch and penetration process in slow motion, measuring test variables and detailing revealing dynamic mechanism and verifying consistency in our test execution. Finally, the use of powerful three-dimensional microscopes can be used to analyze the architecture of the protective materials before and after impact, to aid in understanding the terminal ballistic effects of the interaction,” said Jones, who received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and a Master of Science in Acoustics Engineering from Pennsylvania State University.

    “ARL is the world leader in the characterization of blast, soil effects and terminal ballistic effects caused by fragments and secondary debris.”

    Integration, Teamwork Strengthen Research
    Just as ARL began developing this methodology, the British Ministry of Defense began deploying pelvic protection for its Soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, with the aim of reducing the number and extent of injuries from secondary blast. Dr. Mike Dalzell began a two-year ESEP exchange program with the ARL on the heels of previous assignments with the U.K.’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory where he investigated Soldier protection solutions against blast and fragmentation.

    “Fundamentally, our role in this is to understand the underpinning science and technology of the threat itself, how explosive charges interact with the soil then with the target, but also the fundamental mechanical properties of the materials that are acquired to stop these threats,” Dalzell said. “Secondary to that of course, we also have to understand the properties in the materials that are necessary to ensure the Soldier is not excessively burdened by wearing the protective technologies, so we’re interested in, for example, comfort, thermal burden, flexibility and so on.”

    This methodology would eventually provide PEO Soldier with an evaluation tool used to understand how materials perform against a range of threats, and provide measurable insight on other important material factors such as breathability, thermal resistance and comfort that affect the Soldier’s ability to function and execute their mission.

    This information would be used to assist the material community in the development of new materials that provide better protection at less weight, and it can be used to develop techniques and procedures that provide Soldiers with methods to increase survivability.

    The methodology has already been provided to the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center with an initial screening of candidate protective materials for potential incorporation into Army Combat Uniform pants. This methodology would support ongoing evaluations within the Army and Defense Department to determine which materials provide the most protection, while minimizing weight and bulk.

    Dalzell said working with ARL presented “an opportunity there to get some collaboration between the U.K. and the U.S. on the particular subject. So I worked with the division and branch chiefs in WMRD to see if we could put together a program to support the U.S. Army’s own efforts developing pelvic protection for their own Soldiers.”

    He said he’ll take some of the different and unique techniques learned in ARL back with him to apply on U.K. research projects.

    “It’s been really great to work with ARL, especially within WMRD, with the shear breadth and depth of the scientists working there. I’ve had the opportunity to conduct a whole range of testing with a multitude of experts here to really get a different perspective on the problem. I think it’s important as scientists and engineers, we sometimes tend to look at things from our perspective but to get a different perspective from my colleagues here in the U.S. has been really worthwhile.”

     


    • T’Jae Gibson is with ARL Public Affairs.

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  • Army Refining Airburst Technology

    Modernization and improvements to the XM 25 and other weapons are based heavily upon Soldiers’ experience in combat and the Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures used to maximize their effect. (Program Executive Office Soldier photos)

    Kris Osborn

    The Army is preparing to conduct a second Forward Operational Assessment of its XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) airburst weapon system. Program managers are seeking to expedite development of the system, refine, and improve the technology, and ultimately begin formal production by the fall of 2014, service officials said Sep. 20 at the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE), Fort Benning, GA.

    The weapon fires a high-explosive airburst round capable of detonating at a specific, pre-determined point in space near an enemy target hidden or otherwise obscured by terrain or other obstacles.

    “We defeated any enemy force that we deployed the weapon against. The XM25 is a devastating weapons system that changes the face of battle when we are in direct fire contact with the enemy.”

    “The XM25 brings a new capability to the Soldier for the counter-defilade fight, allowing him to be able to engage enemy combatants behind walls, behind trees or in buildings,” said COL Scott Armstrong, project manager, Soldier Weapons. “The weapon fires a programmable airburst 25mm smart round. It consists of the weapons system with a target acquisition control system mounted on top. Development of the system is going well.”

    The XM25 represents the state-of-the art in terms of airburst technology, consisting of a programmable 25mm round, a sensor, and a fire-control system, said Dr. Scott Fish, former Army Chief Scientist.

    Using laser rangefinder technology, the fire control system on the weapon uses computer technology to calculate the distance the round must travel in order to explode at a particular, pre-determined point in space, he explained.

    “The laser rangefinder sends a pulse of light out to the target. This light pulse hits the target and is reflected back, allowing the fire control system to calculate the distance based on the time it takes the light pulse to travel,” Fish said. “Since the speed of light is known, the exact distance to the target can then be determined. Once you determine how far the distance is to the target, a computer then calculates how long it will take the round to get there.”

    The sensor and computer in the fire control system calculate the time it will take the round to reach the target by factoring in the distance it needs to travel and the speed at which it travels, Fish added.

    The 25mm round is engineered with a small, chip-based sensor able to track distance in flight so that the round detonates at precisely the right distance, Fish said.

    Earlier prototypes of the XM25 recently completed 14 months of Forward Operational Assessments in Afghanistan, an effort designed to provide Soldiers in combat with the advantage of having airburst technology and harvest important feedback needed to improve and refine development of the weapon’s final design for production.

    The XM 25 fires a programmable airburst 25mm smart round. It consists of the weapons system with a target acquisition control system mounted on top.

    “The Army has learned many valuable lessons from these deployments regarding how the weapon can be deployed and how tactics can be changed to better refine the design of the weapon. Based on feedback from Soldiers and contractor testing, we have already incorporated more than 100 improvements to the systems related to ergonomics, performance, and fire control,” said Armstrong.

    During its initial Forward Operational Assessment, the XM 25 provided a decisive advantage to Soldiers in combat in Afghanistan. While on patrol in Southern Afghanistan, Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division used the XM 25 to engage and successfully defeat enemy forces hiding behind three-to-four foot walls used by Afghans to grow grapes, said CSM James Carabello, MCoE, a combat veteran who recently led infantry units in Afghanistan with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.

    “The laser rangefinder sends a pulse of light out to the target. This light pulse hits the target and is reflected back, allowing the fire control system to calculate the distance based on the time it takes the light pulse to travel.”

    “We defeated any enemy force that we deployed the weapon against. The XM25 is a devastating weapons system that changes the face of battle when we are in direct fire contact with the enemy,” he said.

    In fact, the latest version of the XM25 slated to deploy with Soldiers in Afghanistan in January of next year includes a range of key design improvements based on lessons learned from combat. Units using several prototype XM25s in theater were accompanied by teams of weapons experts focused on analyzing the system’s performance with a mind to making needed improvements, Armstrong said.

    Modernization and improvements to the XM 25 and other weapons are also based heavily upon Soldiers’ experience in combat and the Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures used to maximize their effect.

    Therefore, the Army initiated a pilot program aimed at helping Soldiers train and prepare for the many contingencies of combat. The Advanced Situational Awareness Training program at MCoE consists of either a five or 22-day “train the trainer” course with intense classroom teaching and field exercises, said CSM Shawn Cook, 197th Infantry Brigade.

    The training, designed to provide predictive tools and tactical problem solving mechanisms, is aimed at helping Soldiers make effective decisions in highly complex, fast-moving combat environments, he added.

    “We are required to put our Soldiers in harm’s way, and greater situational awareness provides them with more mission success and a safer environment. This training allows Soldiers to better recognize human behaviors in their surroundings, enabling them to make better decisions. Soldiers who have deployed after this training say that it makes a big difference in the outcomes on the battlefield, increases effectiveness, and saves lives,” Cook said.

     


    • KRIS OSBORN is a Highly Qualified Expert for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Office of Strategic Communications. He holds a B.A. in English and political science from Kenyon College and an M.A. in comparative literature from Columbia University.

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