As the Air Force moves forward with rolling out better-fitting maternity uniforms, pregnant airmen at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio are being asked to offer their feedback for final tweaks.
The base published calls for volunteers on its official Twitter and Facebook pages Sept. 7, asking airmen to participate in a wear test of the Air Force’s new maternity service dress shirt.
The new design features darts on the front and back for a more fitted appearance. Military Times reported in 2016 that the new shirt, being fielded alongside an improved maternity Airman Battle Uniform, would also be made to a higher quality standard, with stretchier material, better stain resistance, and more opacity. At the time, the shirt was set to roll out in early 2018.
Daryl Mayer, a base spokesman, told Military.com via email that Wright-Patterson wanted between 30 to 50 participants for its upcoming wear test, to be held the week of Sept. 17 at the Air Force Uniform Office.
“The greater the number of participants the more accurate the results, due to the ability to fit many different body types and stages of pregnancy,” he said.
The aim, he said, is to have volunteers at various stages of pregnancy evaluate the shirt’s fit. Feedback will be solicited on comfort and design, and wear test participants will be asked to provide verbal feedback and answer written questions during the fit test, he said.
Volunteers will also complete a questionnaire at the end of the wear test.
“The feedback from the fit/wear participants will be utilized to make any final adjustments to the fit or design of the improved maternity shirt,” Mayer said. “This participant feedback ensures that we have a final product that meets the user's needs.”
The call for feedback on the upcoming uniform item comes as the Air Force implements a number of uniform changes designed to meet the needs of pregnant troops and new mothers. In December, the Air Force unveiled its new maternity ABUs, featuring pants with a full stretch panel to accommodate all stages of pregnancy, and lower leg and hip pockets, as well as an adjusted chest fit for the blouse.
In July, the Air Force rolled out new policy permitting nursing mothers to wear a T-shirt designed for breastfeeding under the ABU or Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform, although it must stay hidden under a uniform blouse unless in designated nursing areas.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has made a point of talking about the service’s imperative to address the needs of female airmen and mothers in uniform more effectively.
"Women suffer in silence on many of the uniforms that don't fit. And they've never fit," Goldfein told airmen last October during an all-hands call. "The amount of money that women are spending altering essentially a men's uniform to fit a female frame is unsatisfactory. So we're going to get at this."
-- Oriana Pawlyk contributed to this report.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.