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1 22nd October 17:14
otis willie
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Default The Eyes Have It at Afghanistan Combat Hospital

The Eyes Have It at Afghanistan Combat Hospital

(EXCERPT) By Staff Sgt. Johnny A. Thompson, USA Special to American
Forces Press Service

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Jan. 14, 2004 * If U.S. and coalition forces here
are going to be successful in their quest to kill, capture and deny
sanctuary to al Qaeda and Taliban militants, they must first be able
to see their nemesis.

And with the help of the 452nd Combat Support Hospital's ophthalmology
unit, troops in the Afghanistan theater will never have to go into a
combat operation with "blind" ambition. They'll see the big picture
clearly * an Afghan nation rid of unwanted oppressors.

"Our role is to provide eye care for the U.S. troops in the theater
and to provide emergency eye care for the local Afghan citizens," said
Capt. Mark Reynolds, ophthalmology officer in charge.

Staffed with an ophthalmologist and an optical laboratory specialist,
the ophthalmology clinic treats various optical problems for service
members, ranging from providing troops with prescription glasses to
treating eye injuries and giving eye exams.

Reynolds noted that while service members can receive most services
that are available at their home stations, the clinic here doesn't
deal with contact lenses, which are prohibited in theater, or laser
eye surgery and some diagnostic eye exams such as angiograms, because
of limited diagnostic equipment.

"The most common problems we treat are service members suffering from
foreign objects in the eye, such as sand or other small debris," said
Sgt. Robert Davis, ophthalmology unit noncommissioned officer in
charge. "However, we have treated service members with small corneal
abrasions, and have treated a few major eye injuries."

Though the unit is required to treat U.S. service members and is
allowed to provide only emergency service for local citizens, the
Reynolds said the unit understands that every attempt to help the
local citizens is an attempt to foster a better relationship between
the coalition forces and Afghanistan.

He said that while the unit has treated Afghans who suffered eye
injuries from land mines and accidents, the services don't stop there.
"We've provided surgery for citizens who suffer from strabismus
(crossed eyes) and have removed cataracts," Reynolds said. "We are
trying to do the most we can with the time and resources we have

Although the ophthalmology soldiers are not on the front line
fighting, they understand their contribution to Operation Enduring
Freedom is no less valuable than that of soldiers who put bullets

"What good is an infantryman if he can't see what he needs to shoot,
or a pilot if he can't see where he needs to fly?" Davis asked. "We
preserve the sight so armed forces can fight, and that makes us as
valuable as any asset the military has."

(Army Staff Sgt. Johnny A. Thompson is assigned to the 4th Public
Affairs Detachment.)

Otis Willie
Associate Librarian
The American War Library
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