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Naval Ophthalmic Readiness Activity (NORA) Provides Vision Readiness to DHHQ

21 March 2024

From Julius Evans

The Defense Health Headquarters (DHHQ) located in Falls Church, VA, is part of the main Defense Health Agency (DHA), a joint activity that supports health care offered through the Military Health System (MHS) throughout the Department of Defense (DoD), and across the globe. It serves nearly 10 million servicemembers, families, and retirees through
The Defense Health Headquarters (DHHQ) located in Falls Church, VA, is part of the main Defense Health Agency (DHA), a joint activity that supports health care offered through the Military Health System (MHS) throughout the Department of Defense (DoD), and across the globe. It serves nearly 10 million servicemembers, families, and retirees through military and private care facilities. Its mission is to provide a medically ready force in both peace and wartime.

But who does the DHHQ turn to when its personnel have optometry needs? For their vision, DHHQ welcomed Naval Medical Readiness Logistics Command’s (NMRLC) Naval Ophthalmic Readiness Activity (NORA) Yorktown, to bring their unique skillsets, techniques, and readiness eyewear to the headquarters to accommodate DHHQ personnel directly.

In February 2024, NMRLC NORA detached a small cadre of military professional opticians (L19As) to provide on-site vision medical attention to all active-duty DHHQ occupants that required optical correction. NORA personnel solicited eyewear requests, took orders for production, and provided multiple Frame of Choice selections for those who had a current optical prescription present during their visit.

NORA personnel were also prepared to take orders for military combat eye pro (MCEP) inserts, XM50 protective/gas mask inserts and Frame of Choice 2024 offerings.

During the visit, 48 eligible individuals at DHHQ took advantage of the opportunity, and 106 pairs of glasses were ordered, fabricated, and delivered within five days of the event. For those who were unable to attend the Vision Readiness Day, they may still visit any DoD Optometry Clinic during normal operating hours to order their readiness eyewear as a walk-in if they present a valid unexpired spectacle prescription or have one on file in their health record. The nearest optometry clinic to DHHQ is the Andrew Rader U.S. Army Health Clinic.

NMRLC NORA Yorktown is the largest of the 22 Army and Navy Optical Fabrication Labs (OFLs) in DoD. It contains all necessary subject matter expertise to support and guide the MHS Optical Fabrication Enterprise (OFE).

As the Executive Agent for all optical fabrication within the DoD, the U.S. Navy Surgeon General recently approved a Navy OFE optimization initiative. This involves formerly establishing the Navy OFE as a program of record with a standing line item in the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) process as required by SECNAVINST 6810.1. More fully, it involves the transfer OFLs that were formerly at Navy, now DHA Military Treatment Facilities (MTF)s, realigning those at value-adding locations as detachments within the NORA directorate and under command and control of NMRLC.

“In terms of Vision Readiness across the DoD at large, vision is the only Individual Medical Readiness (IMR) elements that relies solely on an individual member’s self-reporting to determine their readiness condition,” said Capt. Brian Hatch, Director of NORA. “Using this risk-burdened methodology, the demand for readiness eyewear is around 1.2 million pair per year. This matches the current maximum production capability across the entire MHS OFE. If vision readiness were fully enforced, the demand signal for readiness eyewear would more than double.”

“Therefore,” he continued, “the MHS OFE production capacity must rise commensurately to meet the readiness posture expected if not self-reported. Optimizing and standardizing the Navy OFE through the surgeon general’s foresight is an important first step toward increasing the efficiencies necessary to meet production needs and ready our warfighters for inevitable future conflicts.”

Stationed at the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, VA, Hatch leads one of the U.S. Navy’s most unique organizations. Responsible for providing optical care for all active duty service components, Reserve Component personnel on active duty for 30 days or longer, NATO and several other identified federal beneficiaries as outlined in SECNAVINST 6810.1, AR 40-63, and AFI 44-117, NORA is the DoD Program Executive Office for the OFE providing guidance to all of military optical fabrication worldwide.

NORA deploys Sailors and Soldiers with mobile optical fabrication capability in support of National Guard and U.S. Navy Reserve missions, prefabricate eyewear for overseas humanitarian relief and medical civic action program missions. It is also the only laboratory to produce eyewear for the Coast Guard, Public Health Service, NASA, NOAA, and other Federal agencies. The incredibly important role NORA plays in providing eyewear; not just to warfighters around the world, but in some cases to various indigenous populations, is accomplished through Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) missions.

An IRT is a DoD military training evolution exclusive to the United States and its territories, that delivers joint training opportunities to increase deployment readiness. Medical missions provide these opportunities to military units while providing incidental benefit to communities via no-cost healthcare. Services include optometry, health exams, dental, veterinary care, and public health education. Care is delivered by credentialed healthcare providers, and no one is turned away. These missions are typically conducted as fairs and may last for several days or weeks at a time to ensure maximum benefit during time spent in the community served.

NORA has a long and successful history of supporting warfighters globally dating back to World War II. The Navy Appropriation Act of 1942 established the ophthalmic program and authorized funds to issue prescription eyewear to Navy and Marine Corps personnel serving abroad.

“While all active-duty personnel should maintain their vision readiness, the focus of NMRLC NORA Yorktown’s outreach is for those in operational billets in the tidewater area. Regular vision readiness awareness occurs through health fair events in fleet and force concentration areas as well as onboard carriers or pier-side for other ships,” Hatch said. “We also send teams of opticians to help support the readiness process for deploying operational units in the tidewater area.”

The personnel serving at DHHQ experienced that first-hand support through NORA’s Vision Readiness Day, and they have already received the eyewear they ordered.

For those interested in learning more about the services NORA provides, please visit

Story originally posted on DVIDS: Naval Ophthalmic Readiness Activity (NORA) Provides Vision Readiness to DHHQ 

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