Extensive coordination enabled the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support to help the Army field female improved hot weather uniforms to new recruits at training centers across the country.
Approximately 1,600 sets of the female IHWCU coats and trousers have been issued at the RTCs, with Fort Benning and Fort Sill receiving sets in mid-August, Fort Leonard Wood in September, and Fort Jackson early October.
The Army created specific design features and additional sizes for females and smaller-statured males, according to the Army G-4. Both the coat and trousers come in 16 sizes and the chest, waist and hip ratios were adjusted for a better fit. The coat features a reduced neck opening, a rebalanced shoulder design, lengthened side seam and a reduced armhole area. The trousers, feature an adjustable waistband, reshaped inseam at the knee and a shorter leg length.
To meet the Army’s roll-out timeline, C&T’s contracting team expedited contracting actions and massive coordination was required internally with the planning, customer, and resolution teams. C&T also coordinated with vendors, third party logistics providers, and with the Army contracting team to ensure on-time deliveries, said Rachel Ganaway, contracting branch chief for the combat uniform team.
In November 2020, the Army requested DLA support the female version of the IHWCU, and by March and April 2021, C&T awarded contracts, Ganaway said.
“Usually, the lead time on new item introductions is 18 to 24 months, and part of that is because of the long production lead times and time it takes to accrue safety stock for bag items,” Ganaway said. “In this instance, this item’s production lead time was five months, and we were working to introduce this item in eight months, which is very accelerated. Normally, we’re awarding contracts between six months to a year.”
C&T also ordered from existing Army contracts to meet the roll-out timeline. This presented challenges as they tracked sizes and shipments with less visibility than they would typically have with a DLA contract, she said.
Marybeth Naimoli, C&T supervisory inventory specialist for the utility clothing planning team said internal and external collaboration was really the key.
“It’s more of a manual effort than it would have been on our own contracts,” Naimoli said. “It was such a collaborative effort, so any success is due to…the people who worked on this so hard.”
Another challenge the C&T team overcame was determining the quantities of various sizes to order, said Tim Schmidt supervisor of the customer-facing Army recruit training team.
“One of the main challenges when making a new gender-specific uniform is planning demand because there’s no history upon which to base an estimated initial demand quantity and stock level,” Schmidt said.
Sizing was also a challenge as recruits have the option of female or unisex versions of the IHWCUs based on what fits best at the recruit issue line.
“I want to give a lot of credit to my team and contracting officer,” Ganaway said. “We do often support accelerated uniform introductions, and in this case, they really had to work a lot harder and quicker to make this one successful.”