Military body armor not a good fit for women

Al Kamen
Columnist May 21, 2012

The old advertising slogan “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman” sure doesn’t apply to the military’s body armor. Seems the gear that protects troops from all kinds of nasty stuff isn’t exactly made with women’s figures in mind — and that’s causing problems as more women take on combat roles.

But never fear, ladies in arms! The House Armed Services Committee feels your pain — well, not literally, but hey, at least it’s working on it. The panel praised the Army for its attention to the issue, and has directed the secretary of the Army to assess whether there’s an “operational need” for gear tailored to women.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

The dearth of female-friendly military gear is nothing new: There have long been complaints about maternity versions of the branches’ uniforms. And women have found that the body armor created with men in mind — that more women are wearing in war zones in Afghanistan — is often too big and doesn’t accommodate their figures.

In the panel’s report accompanying the FY 2013 defense-authorization bill, the Armed Services Committee directs the Army secretary to brief congressional committees within six months about its progress on protective equipment for female soldiers. They note that the budget request included $15 million to develop better protective gear and an additional $11.9 million to create prototypes.

Which sounds like enough for plenty of souped-up Spanx.

Hook, lines and sinker

Newspaper and television reporters working a story often sweat it out, desperately waiting for someone, anyone, to give them the perfect quote or anecdote.

Now we come to find out — who knew? — that all those perfect “man on the street” (MOS) quotes in campaign ads are actually fed to sincere and earnest American “voters” — or actors.

So, for example, the “storyboard” put together by GOP ad wizard Fred Davis for a proposed ad campaign opposing President Obama, has an announcer say it took
200 years to build up the national debt that has been amassed every year of the Obama administration.

Then we cut to an extreme close-up of an older man who says: “The debt that took two centuries to build he did in 365 DAYS?” (Proper emphasis included.)

And to drive home the point, an older woman then says: “That’s HIS debt. He can’t blame anyone else for that.”

Then the announcer bashes Obama’s “bowing, begging, kneeling and apologizing for America.”

Davis proposes a “senior citizen veteran MOS,” wearing a military hat who will then say: “That’s not what I fought for.”

Man, that is sooo much easier.

Sink or swim

Upon entering a soiree, veterans of the Washington party circuit typically identify key logistics: location of the bar, the most important person in the room, and the exits (so they can make a swift and surreptitious getaway).

But sneaking out early won’t be an option at a novel fundraiser for Rep. Andy Harris being held next month. The Maryland Republican will be heading for the open waters with donors during an “afternoon cruise” on the Potomac. And in what is surely a relief to would-be attendees, the event will last only two hours. Promising a “three-hour tour” would surely dampen RSVPs for all but the most ardent “Gilligan’s Island” fans.

Still, the idea of being confined to a small craft (it’s being held on a 55-person-capacity boat called “Finished Business”) with no hope for escape might be enough to make a free-range lobbyist break out in hives. And think of all the potential for disaster that so often befalls seafaring travelers: Norwalk viruses, rough waves, icebergs, etc.

Admission to the event, which is being sponsored by the National Marine Manufacturers’ Boat PAC, might leave you all wet. It’s $2,500 to be named a co-captain, $1,000 for a PAC and $250 for an individual.

Life jackets included.

He shall not be named

George W. Bush is shaping up to be the invisible man of the 2012 presidential campaign. The former president’s presence has been “low key,” our colleague Karen Tumulty noted this week. But now, old 43 is in danger of disappearing altogether.

In what we’re dubbing the Loop’s favorite quote of the week, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney — who had just gotten Bush’s endorsement, seemed to forget Bush’s name. Speaking on Wednesday, the former Massachusetts governor bashed President Obama, saying that when Obama campaigned in 2008, he “was very critical of his predecessor, because the predecessor put together $4 trillion of debt over eight years.”

“The predecessor?” Meaning, uh, George W. Bush? Maybe the name had escaped him, or he found the pronunciation too tricky.

Romney continued with the former-president-who-shall-not-be-named routine, saying later: “I find it incomprehensible that a president [Obama] could come to office and call his predecessor’s [wait, who?] record irresponsible and unpatriotic, and then do almost nothing to fix it.”

Good news and bad

As expected, longtime Asia hand Derek Mitchell, now the special representative for Burma and the architect of the current diplomatic policy, is the pick to be Washington’s first ambassador to Burma since 1990.

The White House announcement coincided with the arrival in Washington on Thursday of Wunna Maung Lwin, Burma’s foreign minister, who met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In addition, the administration, in recognition of some political reforms — and democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent electoral win — after years of military rule, announced the easing of some restrictions on investment and trade with the country, also known as Myanmar.

The good news for Mitchell? If confirmed by the Senate, he’s going to be ambassador to Burma. The bad news? He’s going to be ambassador to Burma.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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