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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact:  Public Affairs Office

Date: August 3, 2007
No: 07-24


The U.S. 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 Soldiers.

 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 databases current.

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 mobilization centers.

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 savings.

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.

In summary, USFIT will provide data the Army needs to have the correct combat clothing and equipment in the correct sizes to outfit the force.

This page last updated on 10 May 2006.