Healthy Vision Enhances Warfighter Health and Readiness

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker
  • 180th Fighter Wing

“Eat your carrots, or your eyes will go bad,” is an age-old myth passed down from generation to generation, as a way to encourage children to eat more vegetables, but is it true?

According to the CDC, while carrots are high in vitamin A, a nutrient essential for good vision, increasing your carrot intake will not single-handedly keep your eyes healthy.

“Staying healthy, in general, is important for your overall eye health,” said Capt. Jill Holler, an optometrist assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing. “There are many correlations of overall health and vision threatening conditions. Healthy vision starts with how you take care of yourself.”

There are many steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy and protect your vision, and eating right is at the top of the CDC’s list, including plenty of dark leafy greens, fish, and of course, carrots.

For Holler, who began wearing glasses at a young age, the human eye has always fascinated her and, because of her own poor vision, played a significant impact in her decision to pursue optometry as a career.

“Once I started wearing glasses in the first grade, I was intrigued with the magic of how great I could suddenly see with just these little pieces of plastic in front of my eyes,” Holler said. “In high school, I shadowed several local optometrists, and I knew immediately that this is what I wanted to do.”

As an optometrist assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing, Holler’s primary role is to manage vision programs, oversee specific career field vision standards and provide education and assistance in vision conservation.

“I provide vision screenings for unit members during their annual physical health assessments and for those requiring additional screenings in accordance with occupational health standards,” Holler said. “As part of these programs, I am also responsible for managing the Aircrew Soft Contact Lens program for our pilots, measure and order spectacles and gas mask insert lenses for members who require them, and train our medics in vision screening procedures.”

“Vision and eye care is important for everyone, but even more so for military personnel,” Holler said. “Many military careers have specific vision standards that must be met in order to maintain military readiness capabilities.”

Those who wear glasses or have minor vision conditions can still serve in most jobs across the U.S. Air Force, but there are some career paths that require Airmen to meet strict vision standards.

Initial, career qualifying, medical and vision screenings are conducted prior to enlistment at the Military Entrance Processing Station, commonly referred to as MEPS, in an effort to determine career fields individuals qualify for.

“Some conditions, such as color blindness or depth perception issues, can limit career options, such as aviation, ammunitions, or even public affairs,” said Holler. “But, while there are some duty limiting or disqualifying vision conditions, most people can serve so long as the basic vision standards are met, or if vision can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or even with a Lasik procedure.”

For members currently serving, regular vision screenings are conducted to ensure required standards are met and to assist members in maintaining healthy vision by providing resources such as safety information and personal protective equipment needed to enhance vision conservation.

Healthy vision is not only important to one’s overall health, but also to each Airman’s Individual Medical Readiness, or IMR. IMR statistics are monitored and tracked in order to provide commanders, at the local-level and up through the Department of Defense, with a real-time snapshot of warfighter capabilities and readiness across the globe.

“Taking steps to maintain healthy vision should be a top priority for every Airman,” Holler said. “Healthy vision directly correlates to your whole body health, but it doesn’t just affect you, it also impacts your Wingmen, your unit and the Air Force.”

Additional steps to ensure healthy vision include knowing your family’s eye health history, getting regular comprehensive eye exams, maintaining a healthy weight, wearing protective eye wear when needed, at work or home, and sunglasses when outdoors.

“Be sure to get annual comprehensive eye exams,” said Holler. “Even if you don’t feel you need glasses or a corrective procedure, and protect your eyes. Wear eye protection when needed, in the workplace, at home when working in the yard or making repairs. Even when playing sports.”

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