FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- More than 20 Fort Leonard Wood military police officers tested the regiment's newest body armor vests, last week.
Both a concealed and non-concealed version were under scrutiny by MPs of the U.S. Army Military Police Corps.
According to Connie Respress, Capability Development Integration Directorate, Requirements Determination Division program action officer, Fort Leonard Wood was a logical choice for evaluation of the newest Family of Concealable Body Armor, or FoCBA.
"Fort Leonard Wood has the MP Corps leaders, SMEs (subject matter experts) and Soldiers providing day-to-day operations as military police," Respress said.
Repress noted that Product Manager Soldier Protective Equipment, or PM SPE, within Program Executive Office Soldier is responsible for developing systems that meet the performance parameters outlined in the requirements document.
"The FoCBA consists of two types of vests that will be fielded to military police, DOD civilians, CID (criminal investigation division) agents and correctional Soldiers," Respress said.
The new vests also offer more protection and maneuverability, according to Respress who revealed operational and technical testing was completed at other locations.
"These vests offer an unprecedented combination of improved ballistic and stab protection. They offer improved mobility, are lighter, more concealable and integrate better with police equipment than legacy systems," said Maj. Michael Fowles, assistant program manager, PM SPE.
"Soldiers are conducting various MP tasks that are providing feedback to fit, form and function of the vest. Soldiers are wearing the vests and assessing their range of motion, concealability, uniform and vehicle integration, as well as performance during various firing positions and physical drills," Fowles added.
Another important change to the vest is in the sizing, noted Fowles. The FoCBA has more size options for a better, safer fit.
"We have 22 MPs conducting the evaluation. Twelve of those MPs are female, and this is key to the success of the evaluation," Fowles said. "We are introducing female-specific sizes, to ensure the vests are comfortable and fit properly for the entire force."
Among the Soldiers chosen for testing was Sgt. 1st Class Gary Warner, 14th MP Brigade Protective Services instructor, and Sgt. Michaela Thomas, 512th MP Co. team leader.
Warner, who was wearing the concealable vest, said it's all about comfort, and he feels most Soldiers would agree with him.
"I'd say for most of the Soldiers, the big thing is comfort for them, as well," Warner said. "The vest is a little more compact, a little easier to operate, more comfortable and easier to manage."
Wearing the non-concealed vest with black and white lettering, Thomas said she felt it is something that can easily separate MPs from the crowd. In the past, they really didn't have much to help them stand out, she said.
"It will speak for itself in a crowd," Thomas said. "If someone needs to speak with an MP (it will be) easy to find us. It makes us a little more approachable. It's a vest that's going to keep my battle-buddy and me safe, while engaging in our day-to-day work. It's more tactical. It's a good change."
According to Respress, correctional Soldiers at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., will receive the first vests off the production line in July.
The remaining vests will be fielded from a priority-fielding plan.
"It's an honor to test out a product like this, because we're helping to shape the future of the Military Police Corps," Warner said.
Thomas agreed. "I feel like it gives me a sense of responsibility to ensure that I'm giving the right answers in helping to decide the route they need to go for the entire MP Corps," he said.
Feedback from the evaluation will be used to develop a vest that meets performance requirements and Soldier acceptability, according to Fowles.
"Their feedback will be used to make design improvements and ultimately result in more comfortable, functional, and suitable vests for operational use," he said.
"This is a much-needed capability that will give military police Soldiers and [Department of the Army] civilian's top-of-the-line protection, which enhances their ability to perform law enforcement duties," Respress added.