Support: October 20, 2004


For nearly two years now, the U.S. Army has been offering free laser surgery for soldiers. The procedure, which usually results in patients being able to do away with wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses, has been increasingly popular over the last decade. For combat soldiers, losing eyeglasses, or having them broken, in combat, is quite common. Being able to see without needing glasses can be a lifesaver. First priority in getting the laser surgery goes to combat troops, especially if they are headed overseas for combat duty. Second priority goes to combat support troops. Anyone else on active duty comes after that. Most eligible combat troops have already had the procedure. For example, 8,000 paratroopers at Ft Bragg (where the 82nd Airborne Division is stationed), have had the laser eye surgery.

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. The army has set up its own clinics on eight major bases, and allows troops elsewhere to get the procedure from civilian eye doctors. The 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. 


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