Army and Navy Optometry Partnership- An Eye Opening Effort

 By Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
Soldiers from Madigan Army Medical Center teamed up with Sailors at Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) for a project unseen by most that will impact the vision of many.

Army optical laboratory specialists from the 62 Medical Brigade, 56 Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 166th Medical Detachment (Optometry) and NHB’s opticians assigned to the Optical Support Unit’s Optical Fabrication Shop combined efforts and energy to fabricate essential eyeglasses for Pacific Partnership 2017 (PP17).

According to Capt. Frances M. Silva, 166th Medical Detachment Optometry (MD OPT) commander, and Optometrist, her team is finalizing preparation requirements to take over 2,000 pairs of eyeglasses to Sri Lanka and Malaysia during PP17.

“This is a unique experience for us. We have accomplished a lot. We’re going from helping a brigade to helping another country’s population. We are planning to help as much as we can and in any way that we can. Providing eyeglasses is only one facet of what we do. There could very well be such things as ocular diseases that we can treat and refer to the local Ophthalmologists,” said Silva, from Schertz, Texas, noting that her team will be ready for any ocular triage needs during PP17.

The past months have been busy for both Army and Navy optometry teams. There was even a specific request to expedite the fabrication of approximately 200 pediatric eyeglasses for PP17, which was handled in one day at NHB by combined efforts.

“This entire evolution has been a great collaborative effort between Navy and Army to achieve a common goal of providing the best optical equipment for everyone. (Naval Hospital) Bremerton has made significant contributions towards our upcoming Pacific Partnership mission,” Silva said, whose team includes Capt. Adam C. Garcia-Manfredi, 166th MD OPT executive officer, Sgt. 1st Class Emmanuel Rodriguez, 166th MD OPT Sergeant, Sgt. Jorge R. Laguna-Ramos, Optical Fabricator, and Spc. Deosha D. Green, Ophthalmic Technician.

Along with supporting PP17, the 166th MD OPT, aided by NHB’s Optometry, has also fabricated eyeglasses for Defense CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosive) Reactionary Forces and other deploying units.

“With the Navy’s help, we have managed to complete a lot of our requirements and overall, everything has been handled very well. The challenge has been to stay on top of all that’s requested and needed by us. Our contacts with (NHB’s) Optometry Support Unit has helped us be successful. Logistics is always a team effort,” stated Sgt. 1st Class Emmanuel Rodriguez, Ophthalmic Technician and Detachment Sergeant, from Puerto Rico.

NHB’s Optical Support Unit has long been known for quality and quantity. They fabricated 16,436 eyeglasses last year, and have handled the need for almost twice as many – 30,244 to be exact–in 2014.

NHB has one of 16 fabrication labs in the Navy not counting Naval Ophthalmic Support & Training Activity that fabricates single vision glasses for all eligible active duty and retired service members.

Not only do they provide glasses for NHB patients, but also those at Branch Health Clinics Bangor and Everett as well as many military commands across the Pacific Northwest, including Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Fairchild Air Force Base, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and Joint Base Lewis McCord. The goal is to have a 24-hour turnover on all orders received electronically from other bases, as well as same-day service for NHB beneficiaries.

“Actually, the Army is our main customer. At least 70 percent of our product goes to them. Our work load has increased but it is gratifying to help them out. They are a very positive ‘can-do’ team,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Brandon Minyard, a Ft. Worth, Texas native and leading petty officer.

The service(s) provided goes beyond the line of sight. The more glasses fabricated by the Army and Navy team, the more Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines become operationally ready from a vision standard.

“Service members must all have individual medical equipment in order to deploy, succeed and accomplish their mission. What’s gratifying providing suitable eyeglasses is that we are ensuring service members are ready to deploy, and we are now also ensuring others are going to have eyeglasses available to them that they have never had before,” Silva said.

There are currently four corpsmen – HM2 Minyard, Hospital Corpsmen 3rd Class Brian O’Neill, Santiago Ortiz and Kirsten Jurgensen – assigned to The Optical Support Unit that handle fabrication orders and have worked directly with their Army counterparts. The 166th MD OPT team has made monthly treks to NHB for training to hone their military occupational specialty skills as optometry laboratory specialists (68H) and complete the requested job orders.

“We’ve really done a lot of great things this past month. I usually work more on the clinical side than fabrication but do know a little of it. It’s important for all us to be cross trained and be versatile and adaptable in our specialty to be able to perform whatever is needed in any type of environment,” said Spc. Deosha D. Green, Ophthalmic Technician, from Columbia, S.C.

All of the submitted job orders followed a specific, strict fabrication process that ensured the needed spectacles were top quality before being handed off to the 166th MD OPT.

“My main job is handling our supply needs. I ensure all the eye glasses we need are ready and assist to make that happen. We all need to be cross-trained in all aspects of what we do. We’re a small team so we do more with less. Having the relationship in place with the Navy is definitely a plus for us in our planning and preparing for all our logistical needs,” said Sgt. Jorge R. Laguna-Ramos, Optical Fabricator, and Bayamon, Puerto Rico native.

From Madigan/Winder Optometry clinic to PP17, the 166th MD OPT work-load continues non-stop.

“As small a team as we are, we can accomplish big things by supporting those less fortunate,” said Laguna-Ramos.

“We can help take care of anyone, anywhere. It’s one vision, one fight,” added Silva.

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