Army sizes things up
NATICK, Mass. -- Traditionally, a guessing game of small,
medium, large, or extra-large by a supply sergeant was the
closest to correct fit a Soldier could hope to receive when
being issued his or her initial clothing items, such as uniforms
and body armor. Also, the number of various sizes available at
Central Issue Facilities (CIF) usually was determined by
predictions based on demand from previous years and previous
This has led to sizing shortfalls and overages in combat
clothing and equipment. For example, a critical shortage of
certain items was discovered during issuing of clothing and
individual equipment for Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF).
There were not enough larger sizes of Interceptor Body Armor or
the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST),
a uniform for protecting against chemical and biological
threats, to meet the demand.
In 1988, a study titled, “Anthropometric Survey of U.S. Army
Personnel,” was conducted to get accurate and timely measurement
data of military personnel because the previous data was more
than 10 years old for women and more than 20 years old for men.
Also, previous survey data differed with regard as to how the
men and women were measured.
The 1988 survey involved taking extensive measurements, using
the same measurement methods, from both male and female
active-duty personnel in order to assist designers of military
equipment and clothing in achieving a better fit.
“This survey currently serves as the best guess of Soldier
size,” said Steven Paquette, anthropology coordinator. “We have
used it extensively at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research,
Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) to help with
clothing and equipment design, and other military organizations
and contractors have used it to assist with the design and
layout of helicopters, tanks, kitchens and more.”
Now, the Uniform System for Improved Tariffs (USFIT) program is
looking to improve on the 1988 data to provide better size
predictions and turn the guessing game into a thing of the past
by allowing CIFs to manage clothing inventory in real time.
“The 1988 survey, although providing the best data to date, is
now almost 20 years old. What the Army looks like has changed in
regards to ethnicity and gender. In addition, the survey only
covered active duty personnel and we have more reserve component
personnel than ever participating in OIF/OEF,” said Joseph
Cooper, Integrated Logistics Support Center (ILSC)/U.S. Army
Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) project officer
for this joint TACOM/NSRDEC initiative.
“The average age of an OIF reservist is approximately 33 years
old, while the average age of an incoming active duty Soldier is
between 18 and 23 years old. Sizing for uniforms will vary
greatly between the two,” Cooper continued.
The USFIT program is working to provide 3-D whole-body
anthropometric scanners at installations with large troop
concentrations. The scanners are able to record the shape of a
Soldier’s body and provide a better size prediction for the
clothing the Soldier should be issued.
“Previously there was a large opportunity for a sizing error,”
said Cooper. “Using the scanner will give us the data to provide
for the best fit.”
The Soldier’s clothing size information will be loaded into a
USFIT (ILSC/TACOM) database while the 3D scan and associated
anthropometric data will be archived in the NSRDEC Integrated
Database for Engineering Anthropometry of Soldiers (IDEAS).
“This new IDEAS database will provide improved tools for working
with traditional and 3D anthropometric data and provide a better
overall description of the user population,” Paquette said. As
Soldiers change duty stations, they will be scanned again to
update the databases and keep both the Soldier’s files and the
From the USFIT database, the Army will be able to order uniforms
and equipment from requirements rather than past demand. One of
the USFIT program future goals is to put the information onto a
Soldiers’ common access card (CAC), and then the Soldier or
supply sergeant could just scan the card and order uniforms and
equipment from remote sites around the world.
The database information from IDEAS provides Soldier body size
information to the materiel developers for current and next
generation clothing and equipment system requirements, including
the determination of sizing requirements for Future Combat
Systems. Paquette said, “It will improve the design and
accommodation of clothing and equipment.”
In the past, the Army would overbuy uniforms and equipment for
CIFs, units, and special programs such as the Rapid Fielding
Initiative. These overbuys would range anywhere from 10 to 18
percent in an effort to accommodate the required sizes for
Soldiers. Using this program, those overbuys could be reduced by
at least 50 percent.
USFIT Phase I included the development of size prediction
algorithms for selected uniforms and equipment at Fort Bliss,
Texas, where more than 3,000 deploying Soldiers were scanned and
fit-tested. These algorithms were validated at Fort McCoy, Wis.,
where more than 1,700 deploying reserve component Soldiers were
scanned and fit-tested.
Phase II of the USFIT Program is currently unfunded, but the
plan is to distribute scanners to 24 Army installations and
USFIT Phase III will include deploying head and foot scanners
for use in sizing protective masks and footwear.
Not only would Soldiers get better fitting clothing and
equipment through this program, but time and money would also be
saved. Most significantly, a 50 percent reduction in the current
overbuy of uniforms and equipment represents considerable
The Army also spends more than $2 million in returns of
individual clothing and equipment each year. If the sizing
information is correct when the items are issued, this number
would also be reduced significantly.
Finally, there would be a reduction in storage costs for
inventory because there would not be a need to hold as much
stock in reserve.
“The USFIT Program is the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s (AMC)
solution to a long standing tariff (size prediction) problem
regarding combat uniforms and equipment,” said Cooper.
summary, USFIT will provide data the Army needs to have the
correct combat clothing and equipment in the correct sizes to
outfit the force.