By Airman 1st Class Codie Collins
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Fumbling through the ins and outs of an aircraft, your fingers trace the different mechanisms of a C-130J. Everything is blurred, yet you are required to fix a broken unit. You have 10 minutes to complete this task. Would reduced sight prevent you from completing the mission?
The 19th Medical Group Optometry Clinic ensures Airmen at Little Rock Air Force base are visually fit to fight by providing annual eye exams, pre-operation and post operation eye care, and diagnosing and treating eye infections.
“The mission of the optometry clinic is to make sure Airmen, retirees and dependents can see, but it’s goes beyond glasses and contact lenses,” said Maj. Felicia Rinken, 19th Medical Group optometrist “It’s about the health of the eye. If the body is healthy, the eye is healthy.”
Annual eye appointments do more than keep prescriptions up to date.
“Vision exams include a complete comprehensive picture’” Rinken said. “From an examination we can tell if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, untreated STDs, any inflammation or eye diseases. Let’s say you’re diabetic and you don’t know it. It would be very detrimental for us to deploy someone who doesn’t know they have diabetes. We can take care of it here before they go.”
In 2016, the optometry clinic served approximately 3,000 Airmen, retirees and dependents with a 4-man team of U.S. Air Force personnel and civilians.
“Everyone is encouraged to make an appointment,” Rinken said. “If you are over the age of 21 and are young and healthy, you should be having an eye exam once every two years, even if you don’t wear glasses. If you wear contact lenses, glasses or are over the age of 50 you should be coming in every single year.”
Active-duty members who wear glasses or contact lenses are required to have two pairs of prescription glasses and gas mask inserts.
“If you are short tasked to deploy, leave in two weeks and do not have glasses or gas mask inserts, that doesn’t give us the amount of time we need to order glasses and gas mask inserts,” Rinken said.
In addition to eye exams, the optometry clinic offers referrals for refractive surgery.
Refractive surgery is eye surgery used to improve the state of the eye and decrease or eliminate dependency on glasses or contact lenses.
“To have refractive surgery, you must be active duty, 21 years or older, have a stable prescription for 12 months and commanders approval,” Rinken said.
For more information, call 501- 987-8811, or www.airforcemedicine.af.mil/MTF/Little-Rock/.