Born and raised in the Capitol region, I know Federal Service is woven into the economy. There are dozens of government organizations, including the military, that our children may aspire to join as adults. It is easy to assume entry into a federal career is all but guaranteed if a resume is well-crafted, educational requirements met and you’ve kept your nose clean. Especially when it comes to the military, right? Nothing could be further from the truth, in particular when it comes to eye sight.
Unfortunately, most civilians make wrong assumptions regarding initial entry requirements and career field stipulations for what is generally called the Uniformed Service. Service members within the branches of the military often refer to this career choice as the Profession of Arms. These branches include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and yes, even the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has uniformed members (a real Jeopardy! bit of trivia). I won’t mention the CIA as they operate by covert rules I am not familiar with. Shhh..
My vantage point is rather unique. I have approximately two decade’s experience under my belt as an eye doctor. Twelve of those years were in active duty military service as an Air Force Officer. I was ‘the guy’ even the toughest of fighter pilots feared. Why? Because I could effectively ‘ground’ these service members from flying duties if they did not meet certain medical and visual standards. Military eye doctors insure all members perform to the best of their visual abilities. This extends to Air Traffic Controllers, Special Operations Members, Fire Fighters, Military Police, Tactical and Reconnaissance team members, Space Missile Operators, Pilots and Air Crew members rated to fly including medical personnel, special members included within the PRP or Personnel Reliability Program – think anyone coming into contact with nuclear weapons and their operations, maintenance, etc – and many more career fields where ‘okay’ vision is NOT good enough.
The potential use of deadly force is nothing to be taken lightly. Do know that the majority of service men and women do not want war or violence; for they will bear the brunt of its consequences. However, all service men and women take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect this Country’s freedom at all costs, even their own life. When the order is given to put into motion a particular mission or even exercise, there is no excuse for not being ready. Lives are on the line and potentially millions of dollars of military equipment may be entrusted to young men and women to get the job done. Because of the high-stakes involved, each service branch places rigid criteria on the physical requirements to serve in particular career field specialties within the military. Just like a student may gain entrance to a particular university, there is no guarantee of a student’s entrance to a college within that university until certain requirements are met. Attributes like height, weight, general medical, scholastic, psychological, hearing and visual requirements must be met for admission to certain careers within the military.
Unfortunately, I have been witness to many service men and women who wanted to either gain initial entrance to a particular career field or ‘cross-train’ into another one only to hit the very hard brick wall of visual requirements in the eye clinics I worked in. Without going into too many details, such as impact on central and peripheral vision, depth perception and even eye health – there are well-defined requirements which are rarely given exception for regarding visual performance, including refractive error. This means your eyeglass or contact lens prescription. True, many service members wear corrective eyewear/contacts to do things like fly planes, drive tanks, rescue others, etc – however there is a limit to the magnitude of the prescription for hundreds of career fields within the military.
I am extremely concerned about the increasing prevalence and levels of myopia (near-sightedness) in our modern world. Habitual near work indoors and display technologies gluing our attention within arm’s reach are unquestionably driving myopia to epidemic levels. I’d implore parents to take any steps they can to prevent their children from sky-rocketing up in myopia. Lack of action results in more than increasingly thick eyeglasses. There is the very real and concrete likelihood that these future men and women will be barred from certain career fields in the Uniformed Services due to their myopia, no matter how great they look on paper otherwise. Thinking that the system can be ‘out-smarted’ by having LASIK or PRK can result in permanent denial of entrance to the military or certain career fields. So, yes – an eyeglass prescription can definitely prevent service in the military. My advice is pursue the counsel and treatment plans of professionals (like at Alpine EyeCare Center) at an early age to ensure your child has an opportunity to pursue their dreams fully.