Airmen from the 355th Medical Group Aerospace Medicine Squadron optometry clinic help keep Desert Lightning Team membersâ€™ eyes on the prize, at home and downrange.
â€œOptometry technicians generally donâ€™t deploy in their career field, unless you have the ophthalmology experience and the surgical experience, then you are usually picked up for deployment,â€ said Tech Sgt. Jennifer Caddell, Optometry Clinic non-commissioned officer in charge. â€œSo if you donâ€™t have that training and the certification, optometry techs typically donâ€™t deploy unless filling the slots for Third Country Nationals Duty.â€
When Airmen of the optometry flight are not filling slots for TCN Duty, they are supporting humanitarian missions such as the one in Haiti in 2010.
â€œWe primarily support the humanitarian missions here at D-M,â€ Caddell said.
â€œWe support the Arctic Care Mission up in Alaska providing medical care to remote villages that donâ€™t necessarily have it,â€ said Caddell. â€œAir Force, Army and Navy doctors go up and provide the care, not just optic care, but medical care in general. We also have missions in South America.â€
The 355th AMS Optometry clinic is the only Air Combat Command optometry office that has a Deployment Ophthalmic Team kit. â€œSo a lot of times if we cannot fill manning requirements we will provide our kit so they can provide the care that is needed.â€
When Airmen are going through a deployment checklist, they go to optometry to ensure their vision requirements are met. â€œFor individuals who require glasses, it is essential that they have gas mask inserts and two pairs of glasses for their deployment, as well as any ballistic protective eyewear inserts that may be required on their reporting instructions,â€ Caddell said.
At the clinic there are examples of the ballistic eyewear on the Authorized Protective Eyewear List. The ballistic approved eyewear is provided to Airmen by their Unit Deployment Managers if their career field requires them. If not they can be purchased at clothing sales.
There is also a program called Aircrew Soft Contact Lens Program. This program allows aircrew members who require vision correction to be fitted for specific contacts prescribed by the clinic.
â€œWe make contact with anywhere from 700 to 900 patients a month,â€ Caddell said. â€œThat includes patients picking up glasses to patients coming in to remove a piece of metal from their eye. We primarily see Active duty members of all military branches for the extent of the services we offer, but can also order glasses for retirees as well.â€
Although the 355th Medical Group does not provide emergency care, the optometry clinic does provide urgent care for active duty members who might have suffered an injury to their eyes.
â€œIf we cannot handle in something in-house we refer them to specific locations off-base that have an ophthalmologist on call 24 hours-a-day,â€ Caddell said.
The 355th AMS optometry flight does their best to keep D-Mâ€™s Airmen mission ready at all times. And as the optometry flight says, â€œIf you canâ€™t see â€˜em… You canâ€™t shoot â€˜em.â€