20/20: the Air Force standard

By Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez on May 19, 2017

Three airmen at the McChord Field Optometry Clinic are responsible for more than 4,000 airmen stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The clinic provides Team McChord airmen with annual eye exams, pre-operation and post-operation eye care, and diagnosing and treating eye infections.

"Our mission is to support the flying community as well as the war fighter," said Maj. Alexandra Tran, 62nd Medical Squadron head optometrist. "We make sure our flyers meet vision standards so they can fly."

The clinic provides routine eye exams which include a prescription check and an eye health check. They also provide exams for airmen applying for corrective eye surgery, to include photorefractive kerectomy surgery and LASIK surgery.

"Part of our job is to educate patients on how to maintain optical health," said Tran. "It's common for people to get a detached retina; the key is to find it early."

Since the Air Force has strict standards for vison, airmen are encouraged to care for their eyes, said Staff Sgt. Marcus Hawkins, 62nd MDS NCOIC of optometry.

"Essentially we are keeping everybody qualified to perform their job," said Hawkins. "Ultimately, airmen can't perform their job safely without good vision."

Besides providing airmen with prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses, the clinic also provides military-issue spectacles and gas mask inserts. Active-duty military are also authorized a free frame of their choice in eye glasses.

"I want airmen to have the best baseline possible for their vision when in positions of high stress," said Tran. "When they're required to where a gas mask, we want them to be able to see in life or death situations and not jeopardize their safety or those around them."

Because regular eye health checks are performed by the clinic, these can often identify health problems or risk factors outside of optical health, said Tran.

"There are certain things we can see in the back of the eyes that are blood or cholesterol related," said Tran. "There have been times where we have caught things way before symptoms started to show."

Patients with perfect 20/20 vision or corrected, are all encouraged to have annual or biannual eye examinations, said Tran.

"You only have two eyes and there is very little we can do to help once there is a major problem with a patient's sight," said Tran. "Sometimes medical conditions can go unnoticed till it's too late."

Although not all airmen are required to have annual exams, airmen are encouraged to take care of their eye health and have up-to-date prescriptions.

"In the military we tend to be detailed-oriented, but it's hard to be detailed oriented if everything is a blur," said Hawkins. "We are the means by which airmen can maintain clarity and optimal sight to perform at the highest and safest caliber possible."

To schedule an appointment or to find out more information about the optometry clinic, call 253.982.2032.