By Ann Erickson, MEDDAC Public AffairsJune 27, 2008
FORT STEWART, GA -- Cutting-edge laser eye surgery procedures for active-duty Soldiers are now available as Winn Army Community Hospital officials opened the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program (WRESP) Center, June 23 at Fort Stewart.
Readiness is the primary reason for offering laser surgery to Soldiers. Dirt, grime and lack of convenient hygiene facilities make contact lenses impractical in combat zones. On the other hand, eyeglasses break and fog up when subjected to the rigors of combat. Col. John P. Collins, Fort Stewart's Army Medical Department Activity commander, also wants to make sure Fort Stewart is taking advantage of technologies to enhance the vision of the 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers.
"The WRESP is a resource to enhance Soldier readiness and reduce the dependence on optical corrections such as glasses and contact lenses," said Collins. "Soldiers perform better if they don't have to worry about breaking eyeglasses, losing contact lenses, or fogging of glasses and lenses at crucial moments."
Currently, Fort Stewart is one of 10 operational refractive laser centers throughout the entire Army. The $2.5 million renovated Fort Stewart facility houses the most advanced technology available for refractive surgery.
Collins commended Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, 3rd Infantry Division Commander, for his efforts with starting this project two years ago. Collins said it was teamwork along with vision, planning and coordination that lead to the successful building of the WRESP.
"It's the passion of the people that make it happen," Lynch said of the new center. "This is a great big deal for Fort Stewart-for this great place and great Soldiers."
The Fort Stewart program offers laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, Photorefractive Keratectomy or PRK and laser epithelial keratomileusis or LASEK. LASIK procedures are performed using the Intralase laser (bladeless LASIK), which is state-of-the art. The laser eye surgery is currently open to Active duty Soldiers only and will treat about 2,000 Soldiers per year.
Maj. Michael Richards, MEDDAC Soldier, was one of the first individuals to benefit from the capabilities of the new refractive surgery center.
"It feels great and it's exciting that I now don't have to wear glasses," said Richards. "Glasses were always cumbersome while running because they fogged up. Now I can go to the pool or swimming and not have to worry about something hanging on my face or falling off."
Also during the ceremony Lynch was inducted into the Order of Military Medical Merit for his outstanding contributions to the Army Medical Department and conserving the health of our Soldiers. The Order of Military Medical Merit recognizes those individuals who have clearly demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character, displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence and made sustained contributions to the betterment of Army Medicine.
For more information or to see if you are a candidate for laser eye surgery at Fort Stewart visit www.winn.amedd.army.mil and click on Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery.