Armor All: New Body Armor Design Issued for Women in the Military

Building better gear for women warriors.

When Major Kathleen Yancosek was stationed in Afghanistan, she found herself doing battle against her own body armor. The bulky Kevlar vest, designed for a man, swam on her 100-pound frame. Whenever she sat down, the vest rode up over her chin (a phenomenon female soldiers call “turtling”). When she walked, it banged against her hips, leaving them black and blue, and the “groin plate”—made with male genitalia in mind—hit her in the knees. The armholes were so far apart that she found it hard to even shoulder her weapon.

Thankfully, help was on the way: When Yancosek called Deana Archambault, a former colleague at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, to complain about her problems, Archambault told her that the local U.S. Army research and development facility was already building a better vest. “It was like, Duh, women are not small men,” says Archambault, who helped redesign the vests to fit the female form. “Our shoulders are more narrow, our torso length is not as long.” In trials, women wearing the redesigned vests were faster and more efficient as they ran through obstacle courses, and they reported that it made them feel safer overall. “It fits like a prom dress,” Major Yancosek says. The finished product is in the process of being issued to 24,000 female soldiers.

Below, Captain Kelly Sullivan, of the Massachusetts National Guard, models the new armor.


Photograph by JJ Miller. Hair and Makeup by Laura Dillon/Team

1. A notch in the back collar of the vest can accommodate a woman’s ponytail or bun, keeping her helmet securely in place.

2. Narrowed shoulders and armholes allow a better range of motion.

3. Darting that’s built into several sections of the vest provides a snugger fit.

4. Two inches were removed from the waistline of the vest. The new version is slightly shorter as well, making the “turtling” issues and hip bruises less likely.

5. The waistline, built for the female form, has fewer Kevlar plates and weighs 25 pounds—five pounds lighter than the original model.

10 a.m., 10-03-2013: A previous version of this story stated that the redesigned body armor had already been issued to 24,000 female soldiers. It is in fact only in the process of being issued. Boston magazine regrets the error.

  • James Lally

    Awesome job Ma’am! That thing looks comfortable.

  • Sara Luisa Valverde

    Wait a minute. Are you telling me that the military ONLY JUST designed body armor to fit women?! So women have been fighting in the Middle East this whole time with ill-fitting body armor?! That’s unacceptable.

    • michelletherese

      Yep. Just like us women in the fire service having to fight fires with wretchedly ill-fitting turnout gear and boots.

    • AJB

      What’s even more unacceptable is that we’ve been at war for 10 years and you don’t seem to know much about the reality of the situation. Then you have the gall to act outraged that things aren’t perfect the moment you find out about them.

      • Sara Luisa Valverde

        AJB – I actually consider myself well informed about this war. I don’t think many people are knowledgeable about the specifics of body armor. Hence, this article. On another note, it’s important to be educated on this, but it’s also important to be unassuming and nice if you want people to hear what you have to say.

        • Kane Leal

          The body armor issue is hardly new.

  • Kim JongLulz

    Won’t protect you from rape so lol

  • Camden Miller

    Seriously? A notch to accommodate long hair? If it’s in ANY way hindering them, then they need to made to cut it shorter in combat positions/zones, not design the fucking armor around it.

    • Jae Stoner

      You have a groin plate…

      • Maximillian Hallett

        Yeah….genitals don’t grow back after they’ve been cut off though so what’s your point?

  • Kurtis Dethfukk

    There’s no cookware involved in the armor, it doesn’t allow for easier sandwich making, and how the hell is she supposed to please me orally with that big thing on? 1/10 stars

    • Mordicai

      I get it! It is funny because you are being a misogynist about people who risk their lives for you to be allowed to be an anonymous jerk on the internet! How daring of you!

      • Kurtis Dethfukk

        The founding fathers wrote the bill that allows my freedom of speech, not this bitch killing children in Afghanistan for the purpose of extorting oil. Fuck I hate idiots who blindly follow their troops because it’s a thing that bumper stickers tell them to so.

        • JesseDavis

          Afghanistan has no Oil that we want.

          • Kurtis Dethfukk

            Afghanistan started producing oil fields in 2012. They have oil, therefore we want it.

          • James Patrick

            And I hate people who think since they read a few conspiracy theories over the Internet, now think they are an expert on what is actually going on. When they have NO clue what is really going on. Good job. Let us know when you make it out of your parents basement and actually enter the REAL world….

          • Kurtis Dethfukk

            This comment has been removed for violating our commenting policy.

          • Nathan

            That is an awesome remark

          • Kurtis Dethfukk

            Nathan, you’re a bitch.

          • Kurtis Dethfukk

            You’re right, they’re not there for oil. How stupid of me, I gotta stop watching those youtube conspiracy docs and believing every word of them. I mean, I didn’t hear this from soldiers I know who are working over there, I just assumed based on youtube videos. Fuck off james, you’re dumb.

          • James Patrick

            I was a Soldier. I have also talked to other soldiers. Not watched Youtube videos. So again, your words mean nothing, and still nothing but a conspiracy Nut. STFU

          • Lamia

            So, it started producing oil in 2012, ‘therefore’ the US government travelled back in time to 2001, arranged for the 911 attacks and then invaded Afghanistan with a view to stealing the oil from 11 years later onwards…

            What a brilliant plan.

          • Kurtis Dethfukk

            Did I ever claim that the initial invasion was oil based? Who the fuck are you responding to, because it doesn’t appear to be anything I said.

          • Lamia

            Pitiful stuff.

            “this bitch killing children in Afghanistan for the purpose of extorting oil.”

            implies that the purpose of US troops are in Afghanistan is to get Afghanistan’s oil.

            Or are you saying there was a previous purpose which, has now changed to the purpose of extorting oil? And if so what was the previous purpose? And at what point did that purpose switch over to the purpose of extorting oil?

          • MenotYou

            You said we were(I say we because I am a soldier) killing babies in Afghanistan for oil.

          • Nathan


        • combatboots7

          Freedom of speech has nothing to do with saying whatever the hell you want, regardless of who it hurts, without repercussions. Freedom of Speech protects you from censorship. It does not protect you from retaliation; be it criminal/civil litigation, or sarcastic rebuttal.

          • Kurtis Dethfukk

            Well pretty sure I have the freedom to make WHAT I CONSIDERED to be a comedic observation on this, and ya’ll can retaliate however the fuck you want to. You idiots need to learn how to take a joke.

          • Nathan

            Shut your face

          • Kurtis Dethfukk

            Freedom of speech doesn’t protect you from retaliation? What kind of retaliation are you talking about? The kind that violence laws prevent? I just can’t quite follow what you’re saying, I don’t speak retard.

    • Chris

      Where do you live? I’d like to stop by and give you something you are in desperate need of. A hospital visit. So how about it big man? Where do you live?

      • Kurtis Dethfukk

        I live in Toronto you fucking moron. If you think you want to hospitalize somebody because of their sense of humor, you might be the one with some serious problems. Oh, and I’d fucking crush you on top of that. Any more stupidity you wish to flow my way?

        • Chris

          If you think that’s funny you deserve a hospital stay.

          • Kurtis Dethfukk

            Right outside of Dupont Station in Toronto. Come get me big boy. We’ll see who the one in the fuckin’ hospital is afterwards 🙂

      • Andy



    • Nathan


  • Nathan

    Haha she is from the south “ya’ll”

  • Kurtis Dethfukk

    Fuck women. I hate women. Rape all women. Destroy all children. RAPE RAPE RAPE DETH DETH DETH BLAH BLAH BLAH, fuck off you hipsters.

  • Greg Foster

    Kurtis, please peruse this blog:

    “Your typing/comment was meant as a joke or whatever.

    How it could/would it be interpreted as a REAL threat or insult is logically ‘an exclusion’. Thus not an issue even though the comment was crude.

    You have got to understand a number of people have never been gone down on or had someone please them with love and devotion even with just a task like cooking and serving them and thus such people could be bitter and fitful.

    Even so, as a basis to make a personal comment attack on you is flawed and unrighteous so therefore sociopathic.

    “Keep in mind that 70% of people will utterly misinterpret, not understand or not have the mental skills to consider correctly, if even attempted, various things. Another 20% are natural psychopaths- non-people- or have been raised to think and act psychopathically and, for the sum total of 90%, to use simple logic like exclusion, inclusion, and/or or time is beyond their means.”

    The guy who said he was in the military was illogical.

    Paraphrase: “saying he was in the military”. He might of or not been, but in this case it is hearsay? Not a valid point, issue or factor.

    By saying he was in the military in the first place he was “citing from authority”, the simplest illogical tenet.

    Your comment was directed at the observed female. Would the comment be less or more “offensive” if female were outfitted as a coal miner or ditch digger with all the EPA equipment?

    By bringing up the military the guy was building a “straw-man”, a point created from unintended associations in this case, and your joke is/was never intended as an insult to soldiers, which in my experience, combat is male dominated.

    BTW. The Israeli’s, desperate at the time due to low population and manpower shortage, attempt to use women in combat units, exclusively and co-ed units, proved untenable under actual uniformed infantry combat conditions and Israel pulled them. As far as I know that was it for women’s use in formal infantry modern combat.

    “who risk their lives for you” Total fallacy currently if denoting our service people in harms way. Not that they won’t risk their lives for you if they had to, my three relatives who served there or are there currently are risking their lives yes, risking their families warfare and would lay down their life for their brothers and sisters in arms lives but are currently being paid- nothing wrong with that should pay them more for occupying two countries, not a war mind you, but an occupation- which I totally support by the way because I am concerned about my oil stocks, the financial well being of my fellow citizens and the USA.

    “who risk their lives for you” statement is just untenable at the moment as opposed to 1776, 1812, 1942 and perhaps the cold war when it was applicable.

    “Risk their lives for my financial well being” is true and I appreciate it sincerely, as all of us would be eating out of dumpsters now if Saddam had manged to switch the petro dollar to the petro euro and also accomplished the gold standard for all the petro countries in the region which had already agreed to it in theory if not action yet, even our “buddies” in Saudi Arabia, eleven or so of the 9/11 hijackers BTW.

    On the face of it, it may actually endanger us. If those brown people or whatever they are in Afghanistan and Iraq now had names like Leonidas, Alexander, Hans, Rommel, Patton or even Bubba who would use his bass boat and hunting rifle to get some payback, we would be definitely endangered. Fortunately, they are either more enlightened and civilized or ineffectual and cowards, I don’t know them so could be that or other reason, no offense or insult intended toward them.

    Kurtis, you are crude in this matter, but so what? Face those who point and accuse silently and know better, but forget arguing it or attempting to teach or correct or debate or lecture. It is not your burden to attempt to preach. Jesus did it, but it was his calling/job/task and you know what happened to him.

    And keep up the your own personal brand of humor and your willingness as a man to back up your right in the matter of your person.

    I got a smirk out of it because I am a misogynist and unpatriotic? No, I was superficially amused and moved on, and reading response, having to back track on it see no TRUE harm or foul was meant by you, I didn’t try to prove what a fine upstanding entity I am by being all so righteous and insulting another, a way of saying I am better than you indirectly as these do.”

    “Women in the military destroy more than unit cohesion, they destroy all military discipline.” -Alexander the Great, conqueror of the known world.

  • matrinxity X

    Don’t know what some of you are dissing her for.
    I want one of these outfits.