The IDF developed the garment after a female soldier complained that the original vest does not fit the female combatants. It is heavy, she claimed, and causes irritation around the pelvis and shoulders. Complaints by other troops included strain fractures and chafing caused by straps that are too wide.
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"We field-tested a number of vests at the Caracal Battalion," Said Captain Yoav Gelster, who is in charge of war equipment. "The female combatants filled out surveys. We adapted different vests for them. They ran, jumped and crawled and eventually we decided to incorporate a women's vest, which includes all the appropriate elements."
The new vest weighs 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) – as opposed to the men's vest, which weighs 2.54 kg (5.6 lb).
According to Gelster, the reduced kilogram "is weight off the combatants' back," which will reduce incidents of strain fractures and other injuries. It will also make it easier for them to carry equipment.
"The new shape is designed to fit the female body," Gelster said. "The straps are narrow, it fits the female pelvis, and the pockets can be dismantled. We also added ventilation openings."
Moreover, the new vests will allow the female soldiers to insert the protective plates into the vest independently.
'Lighter and better fitting' (Photo: IDF Spokesman's Office)
'Measure to improve combat'
And what do the soldiers say? Corporal Hadar Hajaj, a 19-year-old search and rescue combatant with the Home Front Command's Kedem Battalion, is pleased.
"I wanted to be a combat soldier to contributed all I can, which is why I signed up for another year and took part in many operations," she said. "I walk a lot with a very heavy vest, and the news about the new vest makes me very happy.
"We I enlisted, the gave us heavy men's vests that didn't fit, it was cumbersome and didn't close well, it was loose and flopped around," said added. "I believe that the new vest will make it significantly easier for us, and will be a step for IDF female combatants. I think that girls can succeed in battle much better than boys. We enlist with huge motivation and go through a difficult journey, but it's worth it."
The new equipment has already been distributed among soldiers in different battalions, including the antiaircraft, atomic, biological and chemical units, Oketz Unit, Carcal Battalion and the Artillery Corps.
"We're talking about hundreds of female combat soldiers, whose service and combat will be improved by the measure," Gelster said.
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