Warfighters have vision improved at 779th MDG’s Eye Center

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik
  • Air Force District of Washington

(This story is the fifth of 10 stories about the more than 1,500 Air Force health care professionals who make up the 79th Medical Wing and the vast expertise they bring to executing the organization's mission of providing medical services for expeditionary deployment and defense operations in the National Capital Region and around the world.)

As part of one of the Air Force’s three medical wings, the 79th Medical Wing’s Airmen work across the National Capital Region to ensure that America’s warfighters receive superior medical care they can trust to keep in them in the fight.


The ophthalmology team at the wing’s 779th Medical Group’s Warfighter Eye Center located at Joint Base Andrews, Md., performs state-of-the-art corrective laser eye surgery on Airmen warfighters so they can focus on doing their jobs on land, in the air, space and cyberspace.


“Many of the patients I’ve treated while on deployments have experienced eye infections; many of them bring glasses that can break easily,” said Lt. Col. Chantal Cousineau Krieger, 779th Medical Group’s Surgical Sub-Specialties flight commander.  “The laser eye surgeries we perform at the Eye Center enhance the Air Force’s human weapon component because it reduces or eliminates the need for lenses and glasses.”


From its clinic located at JBA’s Malcolm Grow Medical Clinics and Surgery Center, the Warfighter Eye Center offers eligible candidates two types of Corneal Refractive Surgery (CRS) procedures: Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) and Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK). Laser eye surgery improves vision by re-shaping the cornea to eliminate refractive error that causes distorted vision.


As one of only six of the Air Force’s corneal refractive surgery centers, the Warfighter Eye Center sees approximately 35 patients from across the NCR per week and 1,600 CRS surgeries per year.


“We carefully gather data and track our patients’ progress after surgery,” said Cousineau-Krieger. “We find that 94% of them experience outcomes of 20/20 or better and 99% are 20/40 or better, which is legal to drive without glasses.”


Both LASIK and PRK are available to Air Force active duty members or Reserve members on active duty orders with at least six months from the date of separation or retirement. The center treats members of other military services as well, including Coast Guardsmen and Public Health Service members.


“In my career field, having better vision directly impacts my safety while I work around ordnance and on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier,” said Navy Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Matthew Drager, Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic Pax River.


With the vast majority of patients achieving 20/20, Cousineau-Krieger said she has great confidence in the procedure and recommends it for any eligible military member with less than perfect vision.  


“I am personally a very firm believer in the program,” she said.  “In 2008 I couldn’t see farther than a handspan from my face without glasses; I had PRK and consider it one of the best things I have ever done for myself.”


Learn more about eligibility and application requirements for CRS here.