Pregnant Air Force personnel may soon have places to put their pens as the USAF tests a new line of maternity wear for those who wish to “carry” on duty.
Over 60 female airmen have tested a new maternity uniform that the USAF Uniform Office hopes to get into standard issue by next October.
“Most people didn’t even notice that it was different, so that was kind of a plus,” said Captain Mollie Eshel, a uniform tester who happens deputy branch chief in the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “It’s been really comfortable to wear all the way through.”
Eshel said that her uniform was such a comfortable cut, nobody noticed she was pregnant until around her 34th week.
The Uniform Office has only 18 staff members and a budget of $1.7 million, but oversees the uniform changes that affect thousands of airmen all over the globe.
“We sit among our customers,” said Air Force Uniform Office section chief Yvonne Wilson. “We have an opportunity to talk to them and see what works in a uniform design and get that immediate feedback.”
Every decade, uniforms are reviewed to see if any changes need to be made in order to keep up with both the times and needs of personnel. Generally, the uniform changes have to serve a specific purpose and take about three years to fully implement into circulation.
“We’re not going to do change for change sake,” said Colonel William Mosle, chief of the Human Systems Program. “We’re going to do change to improve it, to make it fit better, to make it more comfortable, to be able to support the mission better.”
According to the Dayton Daily News, the new uniform combines the need for a comfortable uniform that pregnant airmen could wear with a style and cut that looks like a regular duty uniform. Using stretchable materials, the new uniform has more buttons and pockets to facilitate growth (up to three times a woman’s regular size) while still giving them the ability to store items such as pens and notebooks.
“So far, it is comfortable for them to wear through the entire pregnancy,” clothing designer Stacey Butler said. “I think I had only one person change sizes through their pregnancy.”
“To look like their fellow airmen was important,” Butler said.
The USAF is particularly heavy on female personnel -with one in five airmen being a woman- and boast the highest percentage of females of all US military branches.
The uniform is all-American in both materials and manufacture, thanks to a law known as the Berry Amendment.
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