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U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, visits with WWII U.S. Army veteran Myron Roker, 96, of Glenwood, during Hy-Vee’s Breakfast for Veterans Monday morning. Store director Mitch Streit, at left, said his store anticipated serving about 700 veterans duirng the annual event. Roker, who served from February 1943 to November 1945, spent 204 days in combat, including a 144-day stretch without a break, in Europe and was awarded a Purple Heart for his combat wounds.

It’s comforting to hear that bipartisan support continues to grow for a common-sense bill introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

Ernst’s proposal seeks to ensure that body armor and personal protective equipment is adequate, property fitted and readily available for the growing number of females who are filling out the ranks of our various military services.

Ernst, who serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, said, “As a company commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I understand firsthand the importance of providing our female service members with the proper equipment to ensure their readiness, survivability and effectiveness in combat, especially as women continue to play increasingly important roles in our nation’s military.”

“The growing bipartisan support for this legislation demonstrates just how important and common sense it is, and I’m hopeful this momentum will lead to getting it across the finish line,” she continued.

Senators Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois; Martha McSally, R-Arizona; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut are original co-sponsors of Ernst’s proposal. In recent weeks, the bill’s original co-sponsors have been joined by Sens. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina; Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; Gary Peters, D-Michigan; and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.

“When I served this nation overseas, I experienced firsthand how our military’s body armor and protective equipment hasn’t always been constructed with the health and comfort of female service members in mind,” Duckworth said. “It’s time we enhance troop readiness by helping make sure female service members are properly equipped for combat, and I’m glad to see more of my colleagues sign on to this important bipartisan bill.”

“More and more women are answering the call to serve in our military, but they are being put at risk of injury due to ill-fitting equipment,” McSally said. “As a combat veteran, I understand that the right equipment can make a difference between life and death. This bill would equip our female service members with the body armor they need to defend our nation.”

“Our female service members have been forced to wear body armor that simply doesn’t fit them, increasing their risk of injuries, fatigue and physical discomfort,” Blumenthal said. “It is critical in minimizing the exposure of our service members against whatever they may encounter during their military service, and it is plain common sense that our female fighters are provided this important safeguard.”

Ernst’s proposal would:

Encourage the services to expedite the contracting procuring and field of new general personal protective equipment that better fits and protects all service members.

Require the services to submit a report to Congress concerning any barriers that they have encountered when fielding their newest versions of personal protective equipment to service members. The report would include any cost overruns or contractor delays in fielding this new equipment.

Require the Defense Health Agency to provide a report to Congress in the 2025 fiscal year identifying the prevalence of preventable injuries attributed to ill-fitting or malfunctioning personal protective equipment.

It’s disappointing that Iowa’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley, is not a co-sponsor of Ernst’s bill. It’s equally disappointing that none of the Iowans in the U.S. House of Representatives have stepped up to co-sponsor a similar measure introduced there.

These are common-sense proposals, not rocket science, and deserve far greater support and speedy approval by Congress.

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