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Fabrication & Eyewear

Having good vision has always been an essential requirement for military service. The stringent physical standards existing prior to World War II precluded candidates with reduced visual acuity. The rapid mobilization following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor necessitated the lowering of visual standards to man the expanding fleet. A military ophthalmic program was established by the Navy Appropriation Act of 1942, authorizing funds for prescription eyewear to Navy and Marine Corps personnel serving abroad.  

In June 1945, rapid demobilization following World War II resulted in a shortage of trained personnel and required the establishment of an Optical School at the U.S. Naval Medical Supply Depot, Brooklyn, New York, with courses for opticians and dispensers. Thereafter, the Optical School was relocated to the Naval Medical School, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, and renamed the Optometric Fabrication School. In 1950, the Brooklyn laboratory was moved to the Naval Supply Center, Edgewater, New Jersey, where it remained until 1954 when it was re-designated the Naval Ophthalmic Lens Laboratory and relocated to the Naval Supply Center, Cheatham Annex, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Expansion of ophthalmic support services significantly increased demand and necessitated several additions to the Cheatham Annex facility. This change in mission resulted in the activity being re-designated as the Naval Ophthalmic Support Activity on 1 July 1964. Relocation of the training program from Bethesda to Williamsburg was approved by the Surgeon General and the activity was granted command status as the Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity on 6 May 1968. To maintain operational commitments, the Command relocated to the Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown, Virginia, and a new 10,500 square foot facility was dedicated on 12 January 1973. A second phase of Military Construction added 15,000 square feet, enabling the Command to complete its relocation in May 1974.

On 1 Oct 1978, Department of Defense realignment of operational responsibilities created a Tri-Service Ophthalmic Services Program. Key elements in this regionalized approach to the world-wide delivery of ophthalmic support services were the Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity, the Fitzsimons Optical Fabrication Laboratory in Aurora, Colorado, and twelve (12) regional single vision activities.

During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, NOSTRA met unprecedented demands for production. From August 1990 to March 1991, 431,077 pairs of glasses were fabricated, of which 185,699 were made and shipped in less than forty-eight hours. Another milestone was the production record for the month of January 1991 when 75,122 jobs were fabricated and shipped, the highest total in NOSTRA history. During this period of unprecedented demand, the laboratory also completed a new 16,000 square foot addition to the building.

In November 1995, all Department of Defense optician training was consolidated at NOSTRA, as U. S. Army students and instructors joined the staff. The Tri-service Optician School (TOPS) consists of an intensive six month course of instruction with graduates certifying as Navy opticians (HM-8463) and Army Optical Laboratory Specialists (68H). The program is accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education and the Commission on Optician Accreditation, plus graduates receive credit toward an associate degree at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College.

With the closure of the Army Optical Fabrication Laboratory at Fitzsimons in October 1996, NOSTRA became a joint production lab with Army opticians augmenting Navy and civilian production staff. During the same period, the Navy Surgeon General authorized the Frame of Choice Program, necessitating the need to stand-up five NOSTRA detachments; two are located in Virginia at Quantico and Sewells Point, two are located in Florida at Mayport and Pensacola, and one is located at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

In October 1999, NOSTRA was designated the Program Executor for the Department of Defense Optical Fabrication Enterprise, charged with fiscal oversight of all optical fabrication labs, worldwide. For the last seven years, NOSTRA has produced an average of 45,000 pairs per month of prescription eyewear for authorized personnel. As directed by DoD Program Budget Decision (PBD) 712, NOSTRA converted 51 military to civilian billets from FY05 through FY08, ensuring the correct number of uniform requirements to meet increased operational tempo, as well as reduction of costs to the Navy. Recognized as a leader in ophthalmic fabrication innovation, NOSTRA has increasingly become more automated and technologically advanced in protecting and preserving the "Sight to Fight" for Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen of the United States Military
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