female soldiers

It's a recent morning out in California's Mojave Desert, and Marine Lance Cpls. Paula Pineda and Julia Carroll are struggling to pick up and maneuver Carl. He's a 220-pound dummy, and a stand-in for a wounded Marine.

Carroll's knees buckle for a moment, but as a dusty wind picks up, the two women pull Carl off their light armored vehicle. They carry him to safety, careful not to let his head drag on the rocky ground.

Both women are out of breath.

Pineda is 5 foot 2. On the back of her helmet is a piece of masking tape with the words "Mad Max."

Angela Hatton / WKMS

In the early 70s, only 2.5 percent of the United States Armed Forces were women. But these days women are a common part of the military. For the last couple decades, women have made up close to one-sixth of soldiers. Until recently, they’ve served in support roles, and haven’t been on many front lines. With changing roles, more female soldiers are training for situations that put them in harm’s way. But military bases recognized a problem: body armor was designed to fit men, not women. Equipment designers began work to change that in 2009 with a new generation of female body armor.