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. However, rapid troop 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 1945, a program to provide prescription eyewear for all Navy personnel was introduced. Sixty-five spectacle dispensing units were established to order and fit eyewear being fabricated at civilian laboratories. A five week program at the U. S. Naval Medical Supply Depot, Brooklyn, New York, trained spectacle dispensers to staff these units.
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. Later, 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 optical fabrication 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 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 Naval Ophthalmic Support Activity on 1 July 1964. Relocation of the optician training program from Bethesda to Williamsburg was approved by the Navy Surgeon General (SG) and the activity was granted command status as the Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity (NOSTRA) on 6 May 1968. To meet its expanding mission requirements, NOSTRA relocated to Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Virginia, and a new 10,500 square foot facility was dedicated on 12 January 1973. A second phase of construction added 15,000 square feet, and the Command completed its relocation in May 1974.
On 1 Oct 1978, Department of Defense (DoD) realignment of operational responsibilities created a Tri-Service Ophthalmic Services Program. Key elements supporting this regionalized approach to the world-wide delivery of ophthalmic optical support services were NOSTRA, the Optical Fabrication Laboratory at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center (AMC) in Aurora, Colorado, and twelve smaller, regional single vision optical fabrication labs.
During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, NOSTRA met unprecedented demands for production. From August 1990 to March 1991, 431,077 pairs of spectacles were fabricated, of which 185,699 shipped in less than forty-eight hours from the time they were ordered. In January 1991 a single-moth Command production record was set when 75,122 jobs were fabricated and shipped. In this period of increased demand for eyewear, NOSTRA expanded with a new 16,000 square foot addition to the building.
In November 1995, DoD consolidated its optician and optical fabricator training programs at NOSTRA. Soldiers joined Sailors as instructors and students, creating the Tri-Service Optician School (TOPS). TOPS consists of an intensive 24-week course of instruction with graduates certified as Navy Opticians (NEC HM-8463) and Army Optical Laboratory Specialists (MOS 68H). TOPS is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education and the Commission on Optician Accreditation, and graduates receive up to 23 credit hours toward an Associate Degree in Applied Science from J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College.
In 1996, with the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) of Fitzsimons AMC’s lab, NOSTRA became a joint production facility with Soldiers augmenting the Command’s Navy and Civil Service staff. At the same time, a new Frame of Choice Program was implemented, authorizing a wider variety of frame styles to improve quality of life for service members. To expand its customer service outreach, NOSTRA established five east coast Detachments, small single vision labs that provide deckplate and regional services. NOSTRA’s Detachments are located at Military Treatment Facilities at Quantico and Norfolk, Virginia, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Mayport and Pensacola, Florida. In December 2012, NOSTRA established a sixth Detachment in Bethesda, Maryland at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
In order to meet a congressional mandate directing the implementation of business process reengineering initiatives and improved efficiency for DoD optical fabrication, the Military Health System (MHS) Optical Fabrication Enterprise (OFE) Program was established in 1999. Navy was designated as the responsible Service for optical fabrication and the Navy SG as the OFE Program Manager. NOSTRA’s Commanding Officer serves the Navy SG’s representative for execution of the OFE Program and works in collaboration with tri-service representatives on the MHS Optical Fabrication Advisory Board to coordinate world-wide delivery of optical fabrication services.
In May 2014, a Memorandum of Agreement signed the Surgeons General of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and approved by the Director, Defense Health Agency, reaffirmed MHS OFE Program mission, and today, NOSTRA continues its longstanding role as DoD’s largest and leading optical fabrication laboratory among the OFE’s 27 labs and. In Fiscal Year 2013, NOSTRA produced over 603,000 pairs of military eyewear, representing 35 percent of the OFE’s over 1.7 million pairs fabricated, and TOPS graduated 94 Sailors and Soldiers. As it has throughout its history, NOSTRA continues to lead the way in “Providing the Armed Forces with the Sight to Fight!”
Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity
160 Main Road, Building 1794
Yorktown, VA. 23691-9984
Office: 757-887-7329 (DSN: 953-7329)