For all practical purposes, the U.S. Department of Defense has made
laser eye surgery a free fringe benefit. For example, the U.S. Air Force has a
major laser eye surgery facility at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, where any
member of the military can walk in and get the procedure. Over the last three
years, the military has found that about 85 percent of their eyeglass wearing
personnel can benefit from laser eye surgery, and 96 percent of those who get
the surgery end up with 20/20, or better, vision.
procedure is considered a good investment, as troops who no longer have to wear
glasses are much better off. Every soldier knows what a hassle eyeglasses can
be in combat, because they get a taste of it in basic training. The running and
jumping, the dust, explosions and general chaos often send eyeglasses flying,
or leave them damaged. Moreover, combat soldiers are now more likely to use
eyepiece sights (sniper scopes, night scopes, or the sight for the main gun on
an M-1 tank), and these are easier to use without glasses.
procedure itself only takes about ten minutes, and activity must be restricted
for 30 days after so the eye can heal. The laser procedure has gone through
several generations and is quite fast, effective and safe. The problem rate for
the troops is practically zero.
eye surgery (often called "lasik") has also become a support item for combat
pilots. The US Navy loses about eight pilots a year to failing eyesight. Laser
eye surgery has proved capable of restoring that eyesight to standards required
for carrier pilots. The procedure also expands the pool of potential pilots, as
many promising prospects are turned away because their eyesight is not good
enough. Many notable aces in the early years of air combat had eyesight problem
that would have kept them out of flight school today. Modern warplanes are
faster and less forgiving than in days past, so the near perfect eyesight has
the military is finding out that all those eyeglass wearing warrior types used
to end up somewhere, and where they aren't going these days, is missing them.
Just ask the submarine admirals who can't keep their crews up to strength any
more. That's because, without anyone really noticing it, for decades, hotshots
who couldn't get into flight school because of eye problems, often went into
the submarine service. Many now get their eyes fixed, and fly off and way from
submarine duty. The solution has been to offer large cash bonuses to those
willing to serve in subs, or other critical jobs that used to be filled by
people with eyeglasses.