Yes, you can be a soldier and wear glasses. There are some restrictions for the level of vision correction and eyewear types in some branches of the military, but your uncorrected vision does not need to be perfect to be a soldier.
You can be a soldier with glasses. Corrected vision is acceptable as a soldier in the military for most positions. Some restrictions may apply in terms of the level of vision correction and the types of eyewear.
The question of whether or not a soldier can wear glasses is often accompanied by other inquiries about vision in all branches of the armed forces. Some of the most frequently asked questions are:
- Are there vision correction limitations, and what are they?
- Does the military issue glasses?
- Are other types of vision correction like Lasix and contact lenses allowed?
- What about combat situations and special forces operations? Can I still be a candidate with corrected vision?
- What are other vision requirements besides acuity?
In this article, we will answer the questions listed above.
Vision problems are occurring more and more as screens and screentime become the norm in our society. Due to this, glasses and other corrective measures become more common. Different high-risk jobs, such as in the military, have different regulations concerning vision problems and eyewear. Frequently asked questions usually revolve around safety in combat, limitations, and restrictions, and the measures involved in military operations. Read on to find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about glasses and corrected vision in each military branch.
The military’s vision requirements are hard and fast regulations and rarely get waived if they don’t meet needs. Things like different eye diseases, color-blindness, and poor eye strength all play into what can prevent a soldier’s job. Each branch of the military will post medical and vision requirements on their websites. These are general guidelines and most likely will not list specific requirements for some of the more specialized jobs. Remember, while most branches require correctable vision to 20/20 for most jobs, each branch has exceptions. More goes into vision standards in the military than just wearing glasses.
FAQs about glasses and the military.
Are there vision correction limitations in the military, and what are they?
This question usually arises when somebody is looking at joining up. Each branch of the military has some limitations and restrictions when it comes to vision. This means vision limitations can disqualify an individual for specific jobs in each branch. All branches require health and vision screenings upon signing up.
- Army. Distant vision no lower than 20/70 in one eye and 20/40 in the other corrected to 20/20. The link below leads to a table discussing the different vision standards and the acuity requirements for each type of job in the Army. Like with all the branches, aviators of any kind have different standards. Army aviators need uncorrected vision no worse than 20/50 corrected to 20/20. https://phc.amedd.army.mil/PHC%20Resource%20Library/TG006_VisionandSafetyEyewearGuideforU.S.ArmyCivilianandMilitaryJobSeries_January2016.pdf
- Air Force. Flight training has more stringent requirements at distance acuity at 20/70 in each eye corrected to 20/20. Navigators need 20/400 corrected to 20/20 and near vision at uncorrected 20/30 and no worse than 20/70 corrected. As with the Air Force, the link below will take you to a table reviewing the different corrected and uncorrected visual acuity standards. https://afspecialwarfare.com/files/MSD%2020170529.pdf
- Navy/Marines. Interestingly enough, the Marines do not have their medical department. Thus, they use the Navy’s standards for health and vision. Aviators for both branches can’t be worse than 20/40 and cannot deteriorate worse than 20/100 after entering flight school. It all needs to be correctable to 20/20.
- Coast Guard. This is probably the strictest vision requirements out of all the armed forces. Uncorrected vision can only be 20/50 and has to be correctable to 20/20. There are no waivers or leniency to this requirement. https://homeport.uscg.mil/Lists/Content/Attachments/638/NVIC-Enclosure%203.pdf
Check individual basic visual standards for each branch to find out which requirements match which jobs. Waivers are available for some conditions. A recruiter is always a good source of information when discussing vision and health conditions.
Does the military issue glasses?
The military used to issue glasses affectionately called the “Birth Control Glasses” or BCGs. Soldiers nicknamed them this due to the very unattractive nature of the frames. Their official name was S9s, but nobody ever called them that. These were almost uniformly available across the different branches of the military. These days, slightly more attractive glasses are being issued called 5A glasses. People who wear them say they’re virtually indestructible–which is necessary for combat situations. Each pair also has a strap to keep eyewear firmly in place. There are also goggles and gas-mask lenses to go over eyeglasses or inserted into the glass. Each branch of the military has slightly different protocols for issuing such glasses–and some not at all.
- Army. In basic training, recruits will be issued 5A glasses. You are not allowed to wear non-military issued glasses in basic training, though some military jobs allow for wearing your regular glasses after basic. Army regulation dealing with eyewear: http://ar670.com/articles/view/1/wear-of-eyeglasses-sunglasses-and-contact-lenses/18
- Air Force. The Air force offers a choice of frames rather than the 5A glasses. They require the use of government-issued glasses for basic training. After basic and depending on the job, you can wear your civilian glasses as long as they aren’t too eccentric.
- Navy/Marines. As with the Army, you will be issued 5A glasses and are not allowed to wear civilian glasses until after basic training. Then, when not in the field, you can wear conservative civilian glasses.
- Coast Guard. You’ll wear issued glasses in boot camp. After that, you can receive a pair of civilian glasses, and a pair of sunglasses. There will also be different protective equipment available where prescription inserts can be used.
While each military branch has slightly different regulations, most of the overarching standards are managed by the Department of Defense. This makes vision standards a little more uniform across the different branches of the military.
Are other types of vision correction like Lasik and contact lenses allowed?
LASIK (Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis), LASEK (laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy), and PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) are both eye surgeries correcting vision to normal. PRK surgery was the first such surgery of its kind available. In PRK, cells are shaved off to reshape the cornea to normal. It is usually quick and heals in a matter of days. LASIK surgery occurs when the ophthalmologist slices through the first layer of the eyeball’s epithelium then close the flap. LASEK is similar to PRK, but it does move the cornea around. It is a combination of the other two surgeries. The Department of Defense supports all surgeries of this kind. These methods and contact lenses have different levels of acceptability in the military.
- Army. The most accepted method is LASIK. Though the other ones are accepted, LASIK is most common for combat bound soldiers. The Army has ten different LASIK/PRK/LASEK centers to perform the surgery. Contacts can be worn on regular duty. In combat, glasses are preferable.
- Air Force. The Air Force has six centers for refractive surgery. If recruits have obtained the surgery, they have to wait a year to enlist. Corrective eye surgery does disqualify from specific jobs like as a pilot. Contact lenses are banned from basic training and are discouraged in the field.
- Navy/Marines. Aviators cannot get a waiver for LASIK and PRK, though other jobs will waive with these surgeries. The Navy also has a study that personnel with these types of surgeries can participate in. The Navy has seven centers for eye surgery. Contacts can be worn on regular duty. In combat, glasses are preferable.
- Coast Guard. There are waiver limitations for LASIK, PRK, and LASEK surgeries. You can see the full list in the link below. For the most part, the Coast Guard will accept these surgeries except for aviators and any Special Operations jobs. Contacts are not allowed during basic training. During regular duties after basic, they are allowed. https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Portals/10/CG-1/cg112/cg1121/docs/pdf/USCG_Aeromedical_Policy_Letters.pdf
One thing that was universal about contact lenses was the amount of care they need and the lack of sanitary conditions at times to care for them. Soldiers listed debris and dryness as distracting factors in wearing contacts as well.
Can a soldier refuse an order? Check out our article HERE!
What about combat situations and special forces operations? Can I still be a candidate with corrected vision?
Soldiers in the field have mixed feelings about wearing glasses. On the one hand, not many find it to be much of an issue. The problem appears when glasses fog up or get wet and obscure vision. This can be a significant issue. Like ballistic goggles and anti-fog spray, different options can help with this, but the problems can persist in humid conditions. Special forces operations allow some corrective vision issues, but they can’t be major. Color blindness is disqualifying in all branches.
- Army. Glasses are acceptable in Special Forces operations with the correctable vision of 20/20 and uncorrected no worse than eight diopters. Glasses in combat are acceptable with safety measures in place like goggles.
- Air Force. Eye surgery is accepted in Special Tactics, though enlistment can’t happen until one-year post-surgery.Standard: Must be at least 20/70 or better in both eyes and both correctable to 20/20 with glasses. It could be waived if one eye is 20/70 or better and the other no worse than 20/200, or if both eyes are no worse than 20/100.
- Navy/Marines. Navy SEAL requirements state: “Eyesight must be correctable to 20/25. Uncorrected vision must be at least 20/70 in the worst eye and 20/40 in the best. Color blindness is disqualifying.” In the Marines, these standards are common across the board.
- Coast Guard. Though depth perception is considered in all branches, it is mentioned explicitly in the Coast Guard medical manual as important. Poor depth perception is a disqualifying factor and could play a part in how operations occur in the coast guard—especially while on the ocean.
Most Special Forces Operations on the ground will highly encourage eye surgery to fix vision acuity after enlistment. What it comes down to is any combat situation requires visual acuity. Most often, support and soldiers in special operations situations need to be extremely fit, including good vision.
All branches of the military perform medical and vision exams upon enlistment. Recruits can still be disqualified after they don’t meet requirements. Always be straight forward and honest with the recruiter about any vision or medical problems. Many times, there are jobs available in the military where vision requirements can be waived.
What medical conditions could disqualify me from being a soldier?
Many disqualifying medical conditions can prevent somebody from entering the military. Severe ongoing Gastrointestinal issues, blood disorders like viral hepatitis, limitations of motion, different eye and ear diseases, and many more. Look here for a full list of these conditions: https://www.military.com/join-armed-forces/disqualifiers-medical-conditions.html.
Does the military have a dress code?
Most soldiers don’t wear dress uniforms daily, though they still dress uniformly for whatever job or position they have. Military bases also have dress codes for different base buildings, which are strictly adhered to. The name of the game is usually conservative clothing and appearance for both soldiers and families on base unless otherwise dictated.
If I wear a hearing aid, can I still be a soldier?
Unfortunately, hearing loss requiring aid is a disqualifying factor for military service. You will need a pure tone of 500, 1000, and 2000 cycles per second for each ear of not more than 30 decibels (dB) with no individual level greater than 35 dB. So your hearing doesn’t have to be perfect, but you can’t wear hearing aids.
What types of equipment does the military issue recruits?
To start with, each branch of the military will issue their basic uniform. There are also packs, helmets, night vision, optics, weapons, tactical vests, fatigues for deployment. After that, it will depend on what type of job you go to after basic training
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.