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Soldiers across the nation are enjoying a bit more comfort in their uniforms with the newest development: the Army combat uniform alternate.
“It’s for a broader range of body types,” said JR Chidester, divisional merchandise manager for Military Clothing and Sales.
It is not specific to females only, but offers adjustments to a wider variety of uniform aspects that were previously one-size-fits-all.
The changes include hip and waist adjustments on trousers, an added elastic waistband, shortened rise in the pants, adjusted pockets and knee-pad inserts, rank and name tag re-positioning, slimmer shoulders, thinner waist, longer and wider coat bottom and adjusted pockets and elbow-pad inserts, Chidester said.
The new fit may benefit both men and women who found the traditional uniform shape challenging in either comfort or appearance.
“The uniform can be worn by any soldier if they feel it provides a better fit than the standard (uniform),” said Maj. Laverne Stanley, assistant product manager for Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment, a part of Program Executive Office Soldier, the organization responsible for developing military equipment.
The process for creating the new uniforms began in 2008. A focus group was conducted with soldiers from Fort Bliss and Fort Carson, Co., Stanley said.
“The group reported that the (current uniform) did not provide a good fit for female soldiers.”
In 2009, sample uniforms were created and tested. From 2011 to 2012, Program Executive Office Soldiers conducted user evaluations and size assessments.
An assessment performed in 2012 reported 89 percent of users opted for the new uniform coat and 83 percent supported adoption of the new trousers, Stanley said.
“An overwhelming majority of the respondents said that the cut of the new uniform allowed them to present a better military appearance.”
Since the new offerings first became available seven months ago, 2,049 uniforms have been sold, Chidester said. That accounts for 1 percent of total Army combat uniform sales. Women represent about 13.5 percent of active duty Army soldiers, according to Defense Department 2012 statistics.
Three fort locations currently carry the alternative uniform, including Fort Lee, Va., Joint Base Myer-Henderson, Va. and Fort Sam Houston.
“All other Army military clothing stores will carry alternate uniform ‘try on’ sample sizes,” Chidester said.
Each of the uniforms’ 16 sizes will be available to try on and then an order can be placed. Uniforms are shipped in seven to 10 business days and can only be ordered through the stores, to ensure accurate sizing before purchase.
Fort Hood Military Clothing will have a few uniforms in its inventory for in-store purchase in the next week, said Tammar Tracy, manager of the store.
“We’ve had about 10 people order them (so far),” she said, and several more try them on. But for now, their inventory will remain small.
“So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Stanley said.