FORT KNOX, Ky. – Vision changes occur. Glasses get broken. Whatever the reason for the need, there is a team of experts who are there to support qualified patients obtain eyeglasses so that they can achieve their mission goals in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations.
Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians assigned to the 1st Theater Sustainment Command who are deployed in the Middle East can get an eye exam and glasses made while working in the USCENTCOM AO, thanks to members of the mobile optical fabrication team.
Also known as the Iron Sights, they are Soldiers assigned to the 166th Medical Detachment (Optical), 62nd Medical Brigade, I Corps, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and currently deployed to the 528th Hospital Center at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
The squad is led by Maj. Steven Klein, doctor of optometry and commander of the 166th. His Military Occupational Specialty is 67F - an Army optometry officer. Staff Sgts. Dominique Mancillas and Fermin Longoria Sr.’s MOSs are both 68Y - eye specialists. They perform routine diagnostic tests on patients and assist in the care and treatment of ophthalmology or optometry patients. Cpl. Wayne Noda’s MOS is 68H or optical laboratory specialist. He makes and repairs eyewear.
This team of four has a wide range of experiences with a mutual goal to ensure that anyone who sees them has an enjoyable experience and gets the right glasses. “We travel through the CENTCOM AO as per mission requirements,” Klein said. “This allows the optometry team to positively affect vision readiness in CENTCOM.
“Vision and visual processes are about 45% of brain functions, and most military jobs require clear and comfortable vision,” Klein explained. “If a Soldier loses or breaks glasses or other visual changes occur, this can have many ripple effects down the line,” he added.
Members of the optometry team can fix or update glasses and determine any cause for visual changes. “All service members are entitled to at least two pair of glasses a year and we work with Soldiers to determine the glasses they need to fit their visual needs,” Klein added.
How do they make the glasses? Cpl. Wayne Noda described the optical fabrication process. “The patient's prescription is identified through either a written spectacle prescription from a previous eye exam or it can be obtained through the process of refraction with an optometrist,” he said.
“Frames are then selected with the help of an eye care specialist. Once the prescription and frames are identified, the optical fabrication specialist selects the correct lens blanks and frames from our inventory. Then he uses the fabrication equipment to cut and sand the blanks and then insert them into the frame to make the glasses,” Noda explained.
The Army has a lot of frame options available, and Soldiers can usually find a frame that suits them. “There are 14 different style and color options and four styles for sunglasses and two styles for the standard issue frame. Eye pro and gas mask inserts are also available,” Noda said.
The quantity of glasses they make each month varies based on unit mission requirements and the number of Soldiers who move through the CENTCOM AO. “It will typically range between 100-250 pairs of glasses per month,” Noda said.
There are about 13 total optical fabrication labs in the Army. Klein’s team is one of five of these labs which are part of an optometry medical detachment. They are mobile units, meaning the equipment and services for eye care and spectacle fabrication can be taken almost anywhere.
The rest are permanent buildings. An optometry medical detachment consists of an optometrist, at least one eye care specialist and optical fabrication specialist. The permanent buildings usually do more volume and can house a wider range of inventory.
There is always one optometry medical detachment in the CENTCOM AO to provide these services, and this team will be deployed until January 2024. There is also a dedicated fabrication lab in Qatar that can make glasses with a prescription or if they receive an order through the military online ordering system, https://G-eyes.amedd.army.mil. However, they are not mobile and cannot update prescriptions or provide eye care.
Therefore, there is no need to wait to get eyeglasses while deployed in the CENTCOM AO. The Iron Sights are there to help you see.