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Good looking out: Optometry keeps Airmen's eyes on the mission

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Lovett, 62nd Airlift Wing, reads from a near acuity chart during a visit to the Optometry clinic Tuesday March 15, 2007 while Optometrist Major Christine Stabile, 62nd Medical Operations Squadron, uses add lenses to measure for bifocals. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Lovett, 62nd Airlift Wing, reads from a near acuity chart during a visit to the Optometry clinic March 15 while Optometrist Major Christine Stabile, 62nd Medical Operations Squadron, uses add lenses to measure for bifocals. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- A patient peers through a phoropter March 15 during a visit to the base optometry clinic.  A phoropter is an instrument commonly used by optometrists during an eye examination to measure an individual's refractive error and determine his eyeglass prescription. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- A patient peers through a phoropter March 15 during a visit to the base optometry clinic. A phoropter is an instrument commonly used by optometrists during an eye examination to measure an individual's refractive error and determine his eyeglass prescription. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Chaplain Lt. Col Michael Lovett, 62nd Airlift Wing,  gets fitted for new bifocals with a segment height-measuring gauge by an optometry technician.for new bifocals during a visit to the Optometry clinic March 15, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Chaplain Lt. Col Michael Lovett, 62nd Airlift Wing, gets fitted for new bifocals with a segment height-measuring gauge by an optometry technician.for new bifocals during a visit to the Optometry clinic March 15. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- When Airmen can see everything clearly, focusing on the mission becomes that much
easier.

The 62nd Medical Group's optometry flight makes sure Airmen can do just that each time they step through the doors.

The flight serves between 300 and 400 active duty Airmen, retirees, dependents, Reservists and military members from other branches who need the office's services each month.

"Making sure people can see is the bread and butter of the profession," said Staff Sgt. James Gonzalez, 62nd Medical Operations Squadron, referring to the many eye exams the flight does each month.

In addition to eye exams, the flight also issues glasses and contact lenses, conducts visual field testing and pre- and post-refractive surgery exams.

While the flight focuses on optometry and examining the eyes for defects in vision, it also has ophthalmology equipment to monitor and check for diseases, but it cannot do any surgery, said Maj. Christine Stabile, 62nd MDOS.

But the flight really takes pride in helping keep Airmen's eyes safe by helping them get corrective inserts to put in their gas masks and high-impact polycarbonate glasses for use during deployments, said Major Stabile.

The glasses offer protection against shrapnel and other objects that might threaten their vision in the desert, Major Stabile said.

"We really want to make sure these glasses are being distributed before units deploy because we want to make sure units are going out there with the right stuff," she said.

The numbers of eye injuries in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom are down because of the protective glasses, Major Stabile said.

In another move to aid Airmen, the optometry flight recently started offering to set up appointments for photorefractive keratectomy surgery that is performed at the Navy clinic in Bremerton, Wash. 

"We coordinate all of it," Major Stabile said.

Patients also now have the opportunity to schedule eye appointments online, Sergeant Gonzalez said. 

Patients can visit http://www.tricareonline.com to book their appointments.

There is also a concentrated effort to make sure young children get the best eye care.

The flight sees patients as young as 3 years old and sometimes children younger than 3 if coordinated through pediatrics, said Major Stabile.

"The younger the children are, the easier it is for us to fix any problems that come up," she said. 

Before children start school they need to get their eyes checked so if anything is wrong, the staff can catch it, Major Stabile said.

Additionally, the optometry section provides a direct link to the mission by enabling aircrews to avoid the hassle of wearing glasses while flying, Sergeant Gonzalez said. 

Through the aircrew contact lens program, optometry fits aircrew members for contact lenses, orders them trial lenses and then writes them a prescription.

The comfort and peace of mind of those on the contact lens program can be felt in the cockpit, said Capt. John Rozsnyai, a pilot with the 7th Airlift Squadron.

Being able to wear contacts instead of glasses while flying makes things easier, he said.

"It's really a comfort issue when it comes to dealing with headsets and relieving the extra pressure on the side of your head caused by glasses," Captain Rozsnyai said.

The optometry section has nearly 200 pilots and loadmasters in the program, Sergeant Gonzalez said.