Army hopes survey will lead to end of ill-fitting uniforms, gear

By MARK PATTON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 19, 2011

WIESBADEN, Germany — The Army aims to make ill-fitting uniforms and protective gear things of the past when it completes a body-measurement survey next year.

When supply officials ran into difficulty acquiring the correct sizes of chemical gear and body armor for troops at the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, “something was happening, and we didn’t know what or why,” said Cynthia Blackwell, survey program director for the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts, which is spearheading the survey.

Army officials said data from a 1988 survey are still being used to design gear, but that body types have changed significantly since.

A pilot study conducted by Natick in 2007 found the obesity epidemic plaguing the general population was “somewhat reflected in our troops,” Blackwell said.

Active-duty male soldiers in 1988 averaged 69.1 inches (5 feet 9 inches) in height, and weighed 172.7 pounds. By 2007, the average height stayed pretty much the same, but weight had shot up to an average of 184.1 pounds. Chest, waist and hip girth all increased, with the average waistline growing from 34 inches to 36.3 inches.

The $6 million anthropometric survey — dubbed ANSUR II — is gathering 94 body measurements as well as 3-D scans of the body, head, face and feet. The survey is scheduled to run through February 2012 and will measure 13,000 soldiers.

The 3-D scans are new and will help design close-fitting items, such as body armor. The head and face scanner will be used to design helmets and goggles, a foot scanner will be used to design boots and shoes. The standardized body measurements in the survey also include specialized measurements such as functional leg lengths, which are used to design cockpits and crew stations for aircraft and combat vehicles.

Blackwell said a common example of the lack of a consistent sizing system is a soldier needing a medium uniform top, but their body armor size is small.

“What a pain; we’re hoping to fix that,” Blackwell said.

Such standardization also should reduce waste in the supply system, she said.

Once the survey is complete, it will take three to four months for researchers to provide the summary statistics to the Army.




Brian Corner, a scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts, measures a soldier's head and face using a 3-D scanner.


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