MEPS Part II: Medical

So the big juicy part of the enlistment procedure that apparently most people salivate and/or have massive anxiety attacks over: the physical at MEPS.

I’m here to set the record straight–it’s nothing to be afraid of!

They don’t lie when they tell you the wakeup call at the hotel is early…I believe it was around 0430. I don’t remember exact details but I’m fairly certain we were to have all our things packed and be downstairs by about 0500. We were able to have breakfast and were scheduled to leave at I believe 0530. We took the same bus ride back to MEPS, went through the airport type security again with a MEPS type of liaison (that morning security took longer as all the recruits arrived at the same time and civilians were starting their workday so we were trying not to hold them up as well).

Once we arrived at the MEPS floor, we lined up and checked in at the front desk and sent over to a set of double doors leading to the area of the floor where the physical assessment components took place. We again checked in at the front desk of the medical area where we were given our file folders containing papers to be filled out by the medical professionals on the floor as we completed each physical component.¬†Throughout the morning they mostly seemed to send recruits wherever they had things that had yet to be completed, but in some semblance of order, meaning: generally we performed our medical screenings in the same order. I was lucky because I was the second person that checked in at the medical front desk second so I was able to complete most of my screenings first and didn’t have to wait long at many stations.

The first station was the visual exam which consisted of a test to assess colorblindness (reading off a series of colored numbers on various colored backgrounds–super simple), and two vision tests with and without glasses, as needed. I believe both were varied versions of ¬†the Snellen eye chart test where you attempt to read the smallest line as possible. The entire vision assessment took like 3 minutes total.

I then went to the auditory assessment across the floor where I had to wait until five others had completed their vision assessments, as we completed the auditory test in groups of six. We were led into a box with six stools facing the outer perimeter and were told to put on headphones and pick up our joystick type button. The goal is to click the button every time you heard a beep in either earphone. The beeps range in tone and get gradually louder. I’m not sure what my final ‘score’ was on this test but it seemed to me that there was a pattern that I may or may not have picked up on which tended to make me more apt to click the button on softer tones, but I guess that was a risk I was willing to take.

Upon finishing the hearing exam, we all met in a conference room where a military liaison gave us a brief Powerpoint lecture on the MEPS physical process, what to expect, and, of course, what happens if you’re caught lying at MEPS about a physical condition you may have. We filled out the massive medical condition form that recruits have previously filled out with their recruiters, checking any and all boxes that apply to any current or previous medical conditions/surgeries/medications/etc. We filled out some other various paperwork that honestly I don’t remember what it was. Finally, we all took a breathalyzer test to finish.

From there, we all were more dispersed through our evaluations and went where there were medical professionals available. I first went to, what I would consider, a pre-physical physical where I met with the doctor who went over the massive checklist of pre-existing conditions to make sure everything was kosher and then did a very brief ENT physical. Nothing scary at all, and our physician was very kind and straightforward–no tricks or traps.

From there, I then completed my blood draw, blood pressure and pulse readings, and urinalysis. I’m gonna be real–I have a shy bladder. I have a hard time peeing in a bathroom with other people in general, let alone with the door open. I didn’t even pee at all that morning after waking up because I knew I was going to have to do the urinalysis test. Well….I was told not to get someone to take me to the bathroom until I felt like I was going to pee my pants which took a good chunk of the morning. Even once we got into the bathroom it took me a solid 20 minutes to go. I have little to no advice other than don’t fret–you’re going to have to do it one way or another. The real upside here is that this was just the first of the many times I’m going to have to take to pee in a cup in front of someone in my military career…it can only get better from here.

I believe those were the only other stations, and we all filtered into the conference room where we watched TV until everyone was finished and ready to perform the “underwear Olympics”. The females at MEPS were fortunate because there were only three of us so we were able to get undressed to our skivvies and get our physicals done pretty quickly. Like most of the MEPS experience, people try to scare you to prepare you for something that’s much worse than what you actually experience. Of course you have to disrobe into your bra and underwear (for God’s sake just buy/wear the biggest panties you can find. One of the girls that was doing the physical with us was ONLY completing the physical that day because she was previously sent home for wearing underwear that didn’t cover your ass. Don’t be one of those girls. People continuously tell you to wear granny panties because the last thing you want is to not even be able to begin your physical because your butt cheeks pop out of your underwear when you squat. They’re right! Just get some gosh darn big panties!!!)

The doctor will make you perform some strange physical tasks: the infamous duck walk (walk in a low squat with knees bent outward, stepping heel-toe, heel-toe without touching the ground), crossing the floor on your knees, speed walking diagonally across the room and immediately turning around and coming back, etc. It’s all odd things but nothing that someone with mild motor skills can’t pass. The one part I was a little nervous about was the scoliosis test because that’s completely out of your control. I’m small and skinny and the last time I took a scoliosis test was in like fifth grade where the elementary school nurse told me I might have slight scoliosis.

Well, the doctor took a little longer to assess me and tell me I was good to go, but after the underwear Olympics and before the gynecological exam he sure enough had me bend over one more time to take a look at my back again. Let me tell you, I thought my military career was about to end before it began. I was sure he was going to DQ me and send me packing. Well..he took another look and cleared me. Either I was really good to go, or whatever curvature he saw wasn’t enough to DQ me and for that I am grateful because he could have easily sent me home.

The gynecological exam was honestly the easiest part of the entire thing. They had us change out of our underwear and into paper gowns, entered a separate room one by one where the doctor performed a breast exam and took like two seconds to look at your ‘other areas’ like across the room. If you’re concerned about this part–don’t be. Literally nothing happens other than a free lump check.

From there, we were given our complete medical files and told to wait by the front desk for us to hand our files back to a clerk who did whatever they needed to do with the paperwork. Honestly it was a huge relief at that point because everything was finished and you’ve been cleared. Truly there isn’t anything that can or should disqualify you at this point and the REAL fun begins because you get to find out when you ship out! To come in Part III because this monster has taken way too long to write!

MEPS Part I: ASVAB

I’ve been dragging my feet on writing Parts I and II of the MEPS process, mostly because at this point it’s been about a month and a half since it all happened and I’m desperately trying to recall any and all memories to make this blog what I wanted it to be! Second, I’m mostly just lazy and have been putting it off. This post will be rather short as I’m only covering the ASVAB which was day 1 of MEPS. The next post about all the physical, administrative, and swearing in processes will be much longer and hopefully I’ll have that written at some point in the next decade.

After finishing my OCS board interview, I changed out of my skirt suit into more casual clothes and waited around the recruiting office for a while. The main reason for this was that we didn’t want to leave for MEPS too early because although I would be able to take my ASVAB whenever I got there, I would have to wait longer for others filing in to take theirs before we could leave at the end of the day for the hotel. Essentially, the earlier I got there, the earlier I could take my ASVAB, the sooner I would finish and have to sit and wait longer for everyone else.

We left the recruiting office I believe around 1300 and drove from central Minneapolis to the Whipple Building in south Minneapolis, close to the MSP airport. Security inside the building was pretty strict and much like airport security–all belongings on your person and electronics you had went into a bin that was scanned as well as your bags and yourself. All individuals entering the building also had to show ID and no aerosol type spray cans would be admitted. I, unfortunately, had been house-sitting the previous three days before my interview and MEPS and didn’t have time to drop all my excess belongings at home, so I had a huge gym bag full of miscellaneous items that set off the detector. Way to go, Kels!

We rode the elevators to the MEPS level and the first thing I did was check-in at the front desk and have my picture taken (which one of the staff members photo-bombed thank you very much). He also took two fingerprints that would be used to check-in with on an electronic pad (at least I think that’s how it worked–my memory is hazy). My bag and other belongings were all stowed away in a locker in a separated room, and all I kept with me were my drivers license and social security card (I don’t recall if I needed them but I wanted to have them on me just in case).

Essentially, I was just given a folder of paperwork from the front desk that I took down the hallway to the testing center. I handed the folder over to the testing administrator (who questioned why I was joining the military at 25) and had my computer setup for the ASVAB. This is the same testing center that other military entry/qualifying tests are given (i.e. DLAB, AFOQT maybe?), so the computer had to specifically be setup for the ASVAB. I was given a sheet of printer paper and a pencil for calculations and began the test. The test is comprised of general science, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mathematics knowledge, electronics, auto, shop, mechanical comprehension, and object assembling questions, presented in that order. One thing I was not privy to prior to taking the test was that there is no option to go back in sections, so you must answer the question you’re given and be confident in your answer because you cannot go back.

I want to say I completed the test in about an hour and a half. I really struggled on the electronics/auto/mechanical/shop sections, which doesn’t particularly matter since they’re not calculated into your final AFQT scoring (but for certain MOS’s you need to surpass the cut-off E/A/M/S score to qualify for that MOS). I’m not even sure if I ever saw what my scores in those areas were, but I was given my AFQT score immediately after finishing the test. The scores were recorded in my information folder which I brought back out to the check-in desk. After that, it was a lot of sitting and waiting. They had lunch options for recruits to eat already prepared, although I did bring a sandwich and left it in the locker room.

Recruits ended up vegetating in front of Impractical Jokers for five hours before ~1830 rolled around and we were told we were leaving. We gathered our belongings and rode on a school bus to the hotel we would be staying at (which was surprisingly very nice?!), and it was a pretty lax evening from then on. We were given a brief ten minute synopsis and video to watch on what would occur the following day at MEPS (which wasn’t anything new), and given the option to stay up in the recruit lounge area of the hotel. I was extremely lucky to have been paired up in a room with a seventeen year old high schooler that went to bed at 2100 like me! I was so worried I would be stuck with someone who wanted to stay up late and watch TV or make noise, but she was the ideal hotel room partner for me and it worked out great.