Refractive Surgery Program
The mission of the Cadet Refractive Eye Surgery Program (CRESP)
is to provide Laser Vision Correction to interested and qualified members of the United States Corps of Cadets and Active Duty Service Members in order to enhance their performance as future combat leaders by reducing their dependence on spectacles and contact lenses.
About the Surgery:
PRK, or Photorefractive Keratectomy is the primary refractive surgery offered at the Cadet Refractive Surgery Program (CRESP). This procedure was the first of its kind for bladeless, laser assisted corrective eye surgery. PRK was approved by the FDA in 1995, and it has been the primary refractive procedure in the military since that time.
PRK is an outpatient surgery that takes about 5-10 minutes per eye to complete. Before the procedure, anesthetics eye drops are used to numb the eye and making it a painless procedure. During surgery, an instrument (eyelid speculum) is used to hold the eyelids open and the patient is asked to focus on a target light. The surface layer of the cornea (epithelium) is then removed by the surgeon, which then facilitates the use of an excimer laser to apply computer guided pulses of energy to reshape the cornea.
After completion of PRK, the surgeon inserts a bandage contact lens to protect the corneal surface as the epithelial layer grows back over 3-4 days. This also helps with discomfort experienced in the post-operative period, which is generally mild to moderate and may create a foreign body sensation in the eye. Patients usually experience tearing, light sensitivity, and a moderate amount of blurred vision during the first 3 days. These symptoms may interfere with normal daily activities, such as driving. Typically these symptoms are worst on the second through third days after surgery, but improve greatly by the fourth and fifth days as the ocular surface heals. To help manage these symptoms, chilled lubricating eye drops and medications are prescribed to help decrease any discomfort, heal the cornea, and decrease the risk of infection and scarring.
The cornea heals from the outside edge in towards the center, meeting in the middle and forming a ridge of healing epithelium in front of the pupil. The ridge is usually formed by the first post-operative exam 4-6 days after surgery, and it is safe to remove the bandage contact lens. Vision is usually much improved by this time, usually between 20/30 and 20/50, depending on the amount of treatment performed. As the healing ridge of epithelium continue to recover and smooth out over the next 4-6 weeks, the vision will gradually improve. The corrective result is usually stable by 3-6 months after surgery.
All personnel participating in the CRESP must meet all of the following criteria:
• Refractive error (spectacle prescription) Myopia -1.00 Diopter (D) to -9.00 D
Hyperopia +0.50 D to +3.50 D
Cylinder no more than 3.50 D
• Stable refraction (< 0.50 diopter change in prescription over at least one year)
• No ocular or medical contraindications to surgery
• Soft Contact Lenses must be out 30 Days and Hard Contacts 90 Days prior to evaluation
Cadets participating in the CRESP must meet all of the following criteria:
• At least 21 years old
• 1st or 2nd class (active duty service obligation)
• Prior Service entry to USMA
• At least 6 months before graduation (to allow for proper follow-up care)
• Tactical Officer approval (no boards/probation/adverse actions)
Active duty Soldiers participating in the CRESP must meet all of the following criteria:
• Army Active Duty: 6 months remaining in service
• Navy/Marine Active Duty: 12 months remaining in service
• Air Force Active Duty: 6 months remaining in service
• At least 4-6 months remaining on station
• Commander/Supervisor’s approval
Timing of Surgery:
Each class of cadets will be treated during a defined time period, between approximately sixteen to six months prior to graduation
. Surgery will not be performed on cadets during block leaves, term ends, and the summer training period. Exceptions to these guidelines will be considered on an individual basis.
How to get started with your Refractive Surgery
- If you are still interested in surgery after reviewing CRESP PDF, Cadet or Active Duty Members need to print off and fill out the required Refractive Surgery Forms:
- Administrative Data/Release of Information Form
- Screening Questionnaire
- Tactical Officer Endorsement / Commander’s Authorization
- Please email completed packets to:
- Once all completed Forms are turn-in, a Pre-Operative exam will be given.
- If you wear contact lenses, you must leave them out for at least 30 Days prior to your appointment (90 Days, if you wear RGP or any form of hard contacts).
- Once you have been fully evaluated and deemed qualified for surgery, you will be placed on the surgery list (if a surgery date is not immediately available). Please let us know about any scheduling constraints at this time (e.g., corps squad season, leave, etc.).
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I have refractive surgery?
You are eligible for the Cadet Refractive Eye Surgery Program if you are an USMA Cadet or an Active Duty (AD) Service Member.
I am a retiree can I have surgery?
No. This is a mission readiness program for the Cadets and Active Duty personnel only, not a health care benefit.
Do I need an eye exam before I start the process for Refractive Surgery?
Yes, a routine eye exam should be performed at least one year prior.
Where is the surgery done?
All pre-operative evaluations, the laser surgery, and post-operative care will be provided at West Point – Keller Army Community Hospital, Bldg. 606, 2nd floor.
What types of laser procedures are available?
The three most commonly performed refractive procedures – PRK, LASIK, and LASEK – are performed by the KACH Ophthalmology staff. You and your eye surgeon together will decide which procedure is best for you.
How long will it take to recover from the surgery?
That depends on which procedure you have done. In general, you can expect to be on quarters for one to four days and on profile (PT at own pace, no contact sports/ swimming/ field duty) for at least four weeks.
If I have laser surgery done, can I still go Special Forces?
The requirements for military schools may change. Please see the most current requirements or waivers in AR 40-501.
What about Aviation?
Attached is a refractive surgery fact sheet for flight school applicants. More detailed policy letters may be available at: https://aamaweb.usaama.rucker.amedd.army.mil/AAMAWeb/p4.html
I’m corps squad (fill-in-the-blank). Will my schedule prevent me from getting treated?
If the timing of your sports season requires you to get your surgery during a specific time of the year, please coordinate with the refractive surgery staff during your pre-op process. You may or may not be accommodated depending on the surgical schedule.
Does it matter what my branch is?
The Army’s Warfighter laser program does give priority for treatment to soldiers in combat arms branches. However, since cadets do not choose their branch until fall of Firstie year, the CRESP generally does not make branch choice part of the prioritization process.