Saturday, May 7, 2011

LASIK and the Military

LASIK and PRK are being widely adopted by United States military service members to help them refine their edge in combat situations. The Army and Air Force operate a Department of Defense Center of Excellence for Refractive Surgery, such as LASIK and PRK, known as Wilford Hall Medical Joint Refractive Surgery Center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The Wilford Hall Medical Joint Refractive Surgery Center performs over 4,000 refractive eye surgery procedures per year and is the busiest of the Air Force Refractive Surgery Centers. The military refractive surgery center programs are considered “readiness” enhancers for military personnel going into combat so that their performance is better than what they could achieve with glasses or contact lenses.

"If you can see the enemy 100 miles sooner than the enemy can see you, you have the advantage," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Charles Reilly, the consultant to the surgeon general for refractive surgery. "We're about giving you the advantage in combat. We want to give you what we call the "combat edge" in vision. Just like when you upgrade avionics systems in an F-15 or an F-22, you want your radar to be able to see the enemy long before their radar can see you. That's how we look at vision. We're upgrading the 'avionics' of the human weapons system."

Military personnel are expected to perform their duties in a widely varying range of conditions, many of which are inconvenient or incompatible with the wearing of eyeglasses or contact lenses. Environmental conditions of sand, rain and windstorms can make eyeglasses and contacts a real hindrance, to say nothing about the general performance limitations imposed by optical devices.

Army Staff Sergeant Stanley Arnold is a combat tactics instructor in Ft. Huachuca Arizona and wore eyeglasses for 18 years before having LASIK at Wilford Hall. "One of the things I don't like about glasses is that it takes away from my peripheral vision," said Staff Sergeant Arnold. "Now, I know I'll get my peripheral back and that makes me feel better with deploying. Being an infantryman, I know for a fact when I leave (instructor duty) I will deploy eventually. I'm very happy with it. I'm on cloud nine."

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