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Military

Air Force Uniform Office researches fire-resistant uniform

by Brad Jessmer
Air Force Uniform Office Public Affairs

9/2/2009 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) -- Members of the Air Force Uniform Office here attended the American Wool Council's Wool Education Seminar July 20-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to learn about and see the latest developments in wool production.

According to the American Sheep Industry Association, or ASI, the military is the largest consumer of American wool, and the purpose of the seminar was to develop relationships between the military and the wool industry.

During the seminar, members of the wool industry briefed military and garment manufacturers on the latest advancements, attributes and morphology (the study of the form and structure) of wool. Attendees were given a better understanding of why wool is durable, stain repellent, easy to alter and inherently fire-resistant.

"Meeting with the folks who provide the very fabrics we make our uniforms from is a valuable opportunity," said Maj. Jason Hale, deputy chief of aircrew operations with the 648th Aeronautical Systems Squadron at Brooks City Base, Texas. "We were able to strengthen our relationships with industry and better communicate Air Force needs."

The Air Force is currently researching a flame-resistant uniform that wool naturally provides. When exposed to flame, wool chars instead of melting. According to Dr. Parvez Mehta of the American Wool Council, wool is a great protectorate since it decomposes and chars at high temperatures. When exposed to high heat, wool yellows in color at 275 degrees Fahrenheit, and chars at 570 degrees.

"Wool fibers are self-extinguishing when subjected to flame because of their high moisture and nitrogen content," the doctor said.

Not only does wool resist flame, but it also resists wrinkles, stains and moisture and is durable, retains its shape and is comfortable in all seasons. Wool absorbs perspiration, keeping a layer of dry air against the skin that helps hold in body heat in cold temperatures and cool people in warmer weather.

All wool used by the Air Force is also produced and manufactured in the United States.

"We are looking into the possibility of using wool for fire-resistant clothing to protect our Airmen in hostile environments," said 1st Lt. Veronica Dawson, deputy program manager with the 648th AESS's Fire-Resistant Air Force Equipment team. "The seminar gave us an opportunity to see wool in all its stages and understand more about what could make it a great fiber for our products."

The AFUO is currently researching many different fiber options for fire-resistant clothing, and continues to work joint initiatives with sister services.

For questions or suggestions or to volunteer as a wear test candidate, e-mail the AFUO at 648AESS.clothing@wpafb.af.mil.



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