Program seeks to fit protective masks to warfighters

Engineers working at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center have rejuvenated the Hard to Fit program to help servicemen and women obtain properly adjusted protective masks in time for deployment.

Cindy Learn, an engineer with the center's Protection Engineering Division's Joint Service Respirator Sustainment and Test Technology Branch, distinctly remembers trying to comfort a distraught servicewoman whose deployment was in jeopardy because her mask would not fit.

"A warfighter cannot be deployed without a mask that fits properly and securely to the face," Learn said.

Learn turned to the program she helped rejuvenate in order to solve the problem. Hard to Fit's motto, "No Warfighter left behind."

"I remember her being so grateful we were able to help her get the right mask," Learn said. "Many do not realize there are infinite different shapes and sizes of faces, and having a protective mask that fits well is essential to any deployable mission. Not being able to get your hands on the right fitting mask could be a career ender for some."

The program fits masks for members of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. It also aids civilians whose work requires wearing a protective mask.

Learn said most currently used masks fit approximately 95 percent of user. The newest models are designed to fit 98 percent. The remainder can visit ECBC and the Hard to Fit program.