I recently got back from my trip to Wright-Patterson and I could not be happier with my experience there. Not everything was smooth sailing for me, as far as my pre-existing eye condition was concerned, but the folks there went incredibly far out of their way to ensure I had every opportunity to pass their tests. For that, I am extremely grateful for their care in what they do and ultimately, allowing me to pursue my dream.
A little bit about my experience: I had an eye muscle disorder that I discovered a few years ago after preemptively visiting an optometrist to make sure everything with my eyes were kosher. Upon finding out what I had, I was crushed. Over the course of the next year, I found a specialist, explained to him what my intentions were as far as pursuing this career and ended up having surgery to correct the problem. The surgery went very well, but that still did little to unease the unsettling feeling I had about my chances. I read numerous stories about others who had similar conditions; I read the AFI's, waiverability guide and medical publications; I even messaged a few professionals on these very forums to gain as much insight as possible. From all of these sources, my confidence on passing was extremely low.
Nevertheless, I continued to interview all over the country in pursuit of my passion, even with that overwhelming sense of uncertainty. The last few years have been the most trying test of my endurance, mentally. I spent thousands of dollars travelling for interviews, faced numerous rejections, put off career advancement in my fall back career, all for just the chance at a shot for my dream job. I knew, at least for me, that if I had not done this, it would plague me for the rest of my life knowing I had given up.
I had engulfed myself with everything there was to know about my condition and how it would be measured/tested. I ascertained that my biggest hurdle was going to be depth perception, as is for most people, even with the best of eyes. I am prior enlisted and have had a history of failing the depth perception years back at MEPS. I spent months researching techniques people use to train their eyes to pass the test to include purchasing the Magic Eye book, as many of you have recommended. Even so, I was still not confident come judgement day that I was indeed going to pass.
Once arriving on day one, you are not given an exact itinerary on what order you will be accomplishing all the tests, so I sat there stewing in the inevitable encounter with my kryptonite. It ended up coming relatively soon on the first day and it was not pleasant. I had measured 20/20 uncorrected, but come time to do the depth perception, I could not seem to make it work for me. This revelation that my hopes and dreams just came to an end began to sink in. Nevertheless, they had me do a full workup with the optometrist there to figure out what my underlying problem was.
We went over many more eye tests and had very long, comprehensive talks about what they were seeing, what my chances/options were, what their role is as far as having a standardized approach in measuring/testing applicants. All of these things really did a great job at putting me at ease. It was the kind and length of talks from a doctor that no civilian doctor, at least in my experience, has taken out of their day to explain exactly what is going on. They made it abundantly clear that they will do everything in their power to ensure you have every opportunity to demonstrate that if you CAN pass, they will pass you.
They ended up prescribing me glasses to retake the exam about mid-way through day two to see if it was simply an acuity problem not being able to see depth perception. I wore the glasses for a few minutes, retook the test, and failed again. This, again, made my stomach turn upside down. I was then given the advice to wear the glasses for a little while longer to have my eyes adjust some more.
Day 3: Nearly everyone I was there with had already been given the all clear, having a great time touring the museum there (which is a must). I knew it was my make or break day. I wore the glasses the entire night before and also woke up early in the morning on day three to walk around outside to get my eyes readjusted. I had found out that walking around outside, particularly looking about 3 feet in front of me when walking, seemed to have the most of an effect on my eyes.
First thing in the morning, we began to do some more evaluations with some easier to see depth perception tests that they had there. These tests were rated at much higher arcs than the standard needed to pass, but were instrumental in helping me with the technique that best worked for me to bring them out. Personally, I found out that opening my eyes up wide, as opposed to squinting (which I was doing before), and vaguely starring at the entire block of circles was working for me.
Miraculously enough, I eventually got to the point to where I could legitimately see all the way through line D. (This was quite the emotional roller-coaster for me at this point). I was incredibly excited at this point that the future that I thought I had lost was slowly coming back to me. However, I was not quite out of the woods. Even though I had gotten through line D, it was a struggle, to say the least. The doctors had long talks with me about their standards and liability they assume by making such decisions and it was in mine, and their best interest, to ensure that this was not a one-time thing. They needed to be certain when you leave there, that you are going to be able to pass it every year after that.
They had me do a few more depth perception tests (and passed) and more workups with multiple doctors and they came to the agreement that I met their standards. I cannot describe to you what the feeling of years of doubt being immediately lifted off of my shoulders felt like.
I am so extremely grateful for the doctors and techs there at Wright-Patterson for taking so much time to work with me through all of this!
Thank you so much!!
To those out there still in the hunt or awaiting your turn at MFS/FC1, never give up! Be as prepared as possible. Make appointments on your own so there are no surprises. If you find a surprise, get a second opinion. Research every option. Above all, remain calm and be as polite as possible. I know the former is easier said than done, but it can truly help.
Good luck to everyone!