Question: Can I wear my own glasses or contacts? What about LASIK surgery?
The one-word answer is NO. When you arrive at the reception station, you will be getting an eye test. If it is determined that you need glasses (whether you had them before or not), you will get a prescription for glasses. Hopefully, you'll get your glasses before shipping to your basic training company. You will get two pair. These glasses are "affectionately" called BCGs or Birth Control Glasses, due to their good looks. You will still hang on to your civilian pair, just in case pigs really do fly, and you lose or break both your BCGs. Get used to wearing them, even if they are a bit heavier than your civilian glasses. You can even get one of those nifty "stylish" bands to secure them to your noggin. Yes, you'll get headaches for the first week or so, if you are not used to glasses or this prescription, but it is vital you get used to them before you start Basic Rifle Marksmanship in the fourth week of BT. No see, no hit, no qualify, no graduate...really simple.
Contact lenses are not allowed, mostly because of safety and sanitary reasons. You'll be in lots of dirty, dusty conditions, not to mention a day in the gas chamber. You'll be filthy and so will your hands. Once you graduate from BT and AIT and get to your first unit of assignment, you'll be able to wear contacts, as long as they don't change your eye color (this is an update to the regulation). You'll also be allowed to wear your civilian glasses, but by then, you'll have fallen in love with your BCGs.
We seem to be at a turning point now for allowing recruits come into the Army with previous LASIK or PRK surgery being done. If you are thinking of getting it done (or have had it done already), you will need a medical waiver to get into the military (this may require some time). There are some tips in the memorandum below dated 4 Feb 2002. Some points to remember:
1. You must provide pre and post operation documentation
2. Documentation of your corrected visual acuity
3. Documentation that at least 3 months have elapsed since your surgery (I've heard some recommendations for 6 months)
4. Documentation that there has been no significant visual side effects secondary to the surgery
With that being said, how does this effect the dangers of LASIK to the corneal flap of the eye accidently getting dislodged with a blow to the head and how did the Army justify that this risk was okay? I couldn't tell you this! The other thing that you might want to think about...... If you pay for the surgery yourself (even when you are already in the Army), and you develop complications at any time, the Army will not pay for your physical disability and health care for this condition if you have to get out. It's just a risk you take. Since the Army seems to be buying more of the LASIK equipment, I would guess that it will eventually be mainstream in the Army (ie the Army will pay for it for all of its soldiers). Currently, only soldiers in critical jobs such as some pilots, Special Forces and forward deployed soldiers are having it done on the Army's dime. If you want to read more about LASIK and the Army, follow the articles below.