When Project Executive Office Soldier provided the U.S. Army Women’s Museum a set of the Female Improved Outer Tactical Vest body armor, it made a little history. The FIOTV, a museum official said, is believed to be one of the first pieces of combat equipment designed specifically for women since World War II.
“One of the last pieces of combat equipment designed specifically for women was the female bicycle, which was provided to female Soldiers in World War II,” said Ron Bingham, a museum collections expert. “This is why we are quite excited to get a copy of the FIOTV.”
Bingham said the museum, located at Fort Lee, Va., is the only museum in the world dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of women in the Army. It is also the only museum of its kind in the U.S. Armed Forces. The museum began in 1955 at Fort McClellan, Ala., and was formerly called the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) Museum. With Fort McClellan’s closure in 1997, the museum transferred to Fort Lee and given its present name. Fort Lee was the home of the first regular Army WAC Training Center and School from 1948 to 1954.
“It is important to preserve this history,” Bingham said. He noted that, on occasion, engineers use museum collections when confronting technical problems.
“Early in Iraq, when Soldiers started to field modify their trucks to defend against attacks, some went back to the Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Va., to get information on Vietnam-era gun trucks,” Bingham said. “They wanted to see how Soldiers involved in that conflict added armor, mounted gun rings, and made other modifications to their vehicles.” The Army soon began providing Soldiers in Iraq with new armored and mine-resistant trucks.
“The FIOTV is not on display yet, but we plan to put it on display,” Bingham said. “As I said, it is the first piece of Army equipment in more than 60 years that was designed specifically for women. Twenty, 30 or even 40 years from now, it will be an important part of our collection.”
For more information on the U.S. Army Women’s Museum, you can visit its website at http://www.awm.lee.army.mil.