Although the size of the force has gotten smaller over the past two decades, the size of individual sailors has grown.

It's no secret the overall size — end strength — of the Navy has gotten decreased over the past two decades, the physical size of the sailors is bigger.

That’s the conclusion of a year-and-a-half-long Navy "correlation study in which several thousand sailors were measured to see if body dimensions had changed since the last studies were done two decades ago. A similar but larger Army study, completed in 2012, found that soldiers were typically larger than in years past" done over the past year and a half,  seeking to determine if the average sailor has grown over the past few decades as their Army counterparts found out a few years ago

The Navy uses body measurement data to as they design everything from cockpits to coveralls. 

Proper wear and fit is critical to the effectiveness of is as important in a dress uniform as it is in protective gear, such as chemical suits, and firefighting harnesses and masks, and even helmets. But it is also important in a uniform, both in terms of appearance and comfort.for things And the data the Navy uses to set sizes has become obsolete.  

"It’s been more than 20 years since the Navy has measured its personnel, and the men and women of the force have physically changed in that time," said Capt. Robert Gantt, the deputy commander for uniform programs at Navy Exchange Service Command. "U.S. Navy body dimensions were last measured in 1997 for males and 1988 for females."

The Navy Exchange, uses the size data to create the sizes and patterns for all the uniforms in a sailor’s seabag. But with the Navy’s data in some cases was thirty to fourth-years 30-40 years out of date, in some cases, Gantt said, they needed new data to before they could create new patterns, Gantt said. 

But in tight budget times, aA comprehensive completely new study that would provide all new data on sailors' sizes and shapes would have cost many millions of dollars — a tough sell in such fiscally constrained times, and wasn't feasible  wasn’t really practical and a fiscal last resort in the minds of officials

Instead, Navy officials they turned to the Army, which in between 2007 and 2012 measured more than over 13,000 male and female soldiers, taking 94 different measurements of each subject. That  which created a database of over 2 two-million data points, according to Gantt. 

We were hoping that we'd be able to use their data instead of having to do a full-size study of our own," Gantt said. "But first we needed to correlate their data and conclusions to the people in the Navy."

"To validate the Army's data, we needed to measure a demographically valid and statistically balanced cross section of the Navy," he said.

Those measurements took place Measuring the Navy’s force happened between October, 2014 and June, 2015.

The exchange’s uniform experts, with the help of the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility in Natick, Massachusetts, measured a total of 3,371 sailors — 2,360 menmale and 1,011 women female sailors — at seven different commands around the Norfolk fleet concentration area.

"That was actually way more than we needed for a statistically valid sample," Gantt he said. "We also only took 25 different measurements of each subject; the Army did 94 different dimensions of each." 

And tThe bottom line is that sailors, like as well as soldiers, on average, have typically increased in physical size since between the late '80s and '90s1980s and the present.

The Army’s final study, published in 2012, concluded that soldiers were no taller than before service members had generally stayed the same height, but were wider and heavier than in 1988, when the Army had last done last did a soldier-size study.

On average, male soldiers men, the study said were only .016 inch taller but 15.4 pounds heavier. Chest circumference increased by 2.65 inches, waist circumference by 3.09 inches larger and buttock circumference by 1.41 inches. Shoulder breadth was  0.73 inches wider. 

Female soldiers, on average, are actually saw similar changes being today average,  .035 inches shorter now than they were 25 years ago, but and 12.6 pounds heavier than 25-years before. Female chest circumference increased 1.56 inches, and the average waist circumference by 2.7 inches larger and with buttock circumference by increasing 2.14 inches. Shoulder breadth for women increased by 0.69 inches.

A comparative analysis of the Navy and Army's anthropometric data and the Army data showed (which was collected between 2010 and 2012) was conducted and it was determined that a correlation does exist between the demographics of the Navy and Army two populations.  

This means that Navy anthropometric data collected in 2014-15 can be used to supplement the more extensive Army database, which in turn can be used to update the sizing of Navy uniforms and off-set the cost and long lead time associated with conducting a full-blown Navy anthropometric study.

On average, men, the study said were only .016 inch taller but 15.4 pounds heavier. Chest circumference increased by 2.65 inches , waist circumference by 3.09 inches larger and buttock circumference by 1.41. Shoulder breadth was  0.73 wider.

Women saw similar changes being today average,  .035 inches shorter and 12.6 pounds heavier than 25-years before. Female chest circumference increased 1.56 inches and the average waist circumference 2.7 inches larger with buttock circumference increasing 2.14 inches. Shoulder breadth for women increased by 0.69 inch.

But the data shows what Gantt  has shown Gantt what was suspected all along, how the Navy uniform dimensions sizes uniforms for everyone needs to change. That may mean the Navy needs more uniforms in bigger sizes, but more importantly, in any given size, the relationships between waist, hips, buttocks, shoulders and other uniform dimensions will likely need to change. First, the Navy will update exactly how they size uniforms to reflect the new body data, Gantt said. That will it will take a few years, before any new resized uniforms start to be stacked on exchange shelves, however

First, Gantt said, all the master patterns for each of the Navy’s uniforms will be updated to reflect the new data, Gantt said, as well, but that’s expected to happen gradually, not all at once. .     

"This will eventually lead to updated sizing patterns for uniforms, organizational clothing and personal protective equipment," he said. "This will improve fit, appearance and comfort for sailors."

As these are updated, sample uniforms of all the new sizes will be produced, and sailors will again be called for what is called a "fit test" to see how these uniforms look and feel on actual sailors.   

"Whichever uniforms are selected to validate the new master patterns, they will likely be the first uniforms to adopt the improved sizing and patterns — this will likely take place within the next several years," Gantt said  "Other uniforms would likely be modified with the new sizing data and patterns in a methodical and incremental fashion as determined by Navy leadership."

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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