This is a story about Dave Brown and his journey through the Military Entrance Processing Station, joining the Delayed Entry Program, then enlisting and heading to boot camp.
The recruits arrived at the Double Tree Hotel in New Orleans around 7:00 PM that night. Armed with a backpack containing an information packet and a change of clothes, they enter the lobby and approach the information desk. The lady behind the counter sent me to another desk for MEPS check-ins. The man behind the asked for names and handed clipboards with a form on it. "Read everything and sign at the bottom."
The rules are simple that night. Don't leave the hotel, be in your room by 10, don't drink, don't do drugs, don't cause trouble. You will be given a room key and be told to sit in a designated area with other recruits and wait for a briefing prior to getting to go to your room.
MORE RULES: You are permitted only on your own floor, the lobby area, the dining area, the exercise area, and the movie area. A movie plays every 3 hours. If you leave those areas, if you are not wearing proper attire in the exercise area, if you behave inappropriately, or wear anything inappropriate, this includes cutoffs, white T-shirts, obscene material, midriffs, flip-flops or tanktops, you will not go to MEPS. Dinner is served until 10:00 PM. It is a buffet. If you do not eat by 10:00 PM, you will not eat. Wake-up call is at 3:15 AM. Breakfast is served at 4:15 AM sharp. The bus leaves at 4:45 sharp. If you have not eaten by 4:45, you will not eat. If you are not on the bus by 4:45, you will need to find another way to get to the MEPS, because I will not help you. You must return your room key by 4:15 AM. If you do not, you will not go to MEPS.
Regarding the hotel: bring a swimming suit and workout clothes. You may have considerable time on your hands. It's a lot more fun swimming than staring at the TV. After 30 minutes of killing time, my roommate entered, introduced himself and sat on his bed.
You will get to meet other recruits for military while at dinner and hanging out in the exercise room or pool. You will see people seeking to serve all branches of the military with all types of reasons why they decided to serve.
Soon after nervously chatting about the decisions made, most will spend the night tossing and turning. But try to get some sleep because 3:15 would be here before you know it. Blink. It arrived.
The drive was quiet (as are most roads at 4:45 AM in the rain). Within 30 minutes were were at the New Orleans MEPS facility / Naval Support Academy. What followed was straight out of a movie. The bus was unloading in two straight lines (one of which I joined) under an awning outside of the facility. It was still very dark, thunder rumbling overhead, rain coming down.
When you enter the MEPS facility, you will be divided up by branch and sent to your liaison! Store your bags in the marked closet! The entrance will remind you of an airport terminal. There are several rows of seating, a long desk, and lots or uniformed personnel moving to and fro.
"Air Force here, Marine Corps here, Army here and Navy here!" announced another, pointing out the different offices.
Upon entrance, a line formed, where your packets are collected and your names are called. You will be given name tags to put on your shirts, and sent to another line at the "Control Desk" in the main lobby we entered from. This line was quite long and slowly moving into a room. The last handful of people entered and took seats, and a tall man in camouflage entered and stepped behind the podium.
"Good morning. I am _________. Welcome to the New Orleans MEPS." He then proceeded to cover the rules and regulations of the facility in detail. "There is a snack room with an arcade inside. It is there as a privilege. You are expected to keep it clean. If we find trash on the floor, it will be locked and your only snacks will consist of water from a fountain.
He then covered Fraudulent Enlistment. "You will answer many questions and fill out many forms. If you lie to anyone or on anything, it will be considered Fraudulent Enlistment and you will be subject to two years in prison and dishonorable discharge. Do not do it."
The next person to enter the room was a nurse. She then walked us through every question of the medical form. She also covered the Privacy Act. "Do not share any medical information with anyone here unless he is a doctor. Do not let anyone examine your records.
She soon returned, and you finish filling out the comprehensive paperwork. You will likely take the ASVAB if you have not taken it officially yet. You also will take a quick breathalyzer test. The test is long and grueling. It is divided into around a dozen categories of various length, type, and difficulty. (GUIDE NOTE: See ABCs of the ASVAB, for more information).
The Medical Exam
After completing the test, you will get your blood taken. After blood is drawn, you then give a urine sample. You will have an observer in the bathroom to make sure you actually do use your own urine. Next up was the blood pressure test then the eye exam.
The next station was the dreaded physical. The doctor gives a cursory evaluation for tattoos or piercings. Then you will be instructed to touch our toes to examine the spine for scoliosis. Then, you will be instructed to do various balance and motor skills tests. Then duck walk. Finally, you will have a visual acuity test, where we followed the doctors fingers with our eyes, and he turned out the light and checked out pupils. Air Force people also had to "pop" their ears using the valsalva method.
The whole process lasted 20 minutes at the most. Then, a large screen was put up and we had to individually meet with the doctor. You will have to "Turn your head and cough" and bend over and let him check for any Hemorrhoids. Of course it is awkward, but everybody has to do it.
You will then get dressed and line up for the hearing test then you are off to the personal interview with the doctor. This is where the doctor reviews your record with you and can disqualify you on the spot depending on your answers.
The doctor calls you in, and this meeting starts with a literacy test and you will have to read a paragraph. He then asks about the "yes" questions on the medical form. You will be given your folder, and will take your branch and you will likely be done IF you passed everything.
GUIDE NOTE: If joining the Reserves, the job selection process is done through the Recruiter. If you are enlisting on active duty, the MEPS experience would have included job selection, a Security Interview, and (likely) enlistment in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP). Additionally, some took the ASVAB and physical on the same day. At most MEPS facilities, today, the ASVAB is performed on the afternoon of arrival, and the medical/job selection process is accomplished on the following day.
Some final thoughts on MEPS:
- Don't expect much sleep the night before.
- Eat your breakfast.
- It's not that bad, and if you pay attention you won't have any problems.
- Keep it together during the ASVAB. Yes it's long. Yes it's difficult. Pace yourself and do your best.
- Be honest in your medical background. If you have a potentially disqualifying problem, get all the documentation you can squeeze from your doctor, and get a RECENT examination. Have your verbal medical description ready: keep it concise and detailed, and keep it accurate. Let the facts speak for themselves. The doctors are very reasonable.
I hope you find this helpful! Good luck in your MEPS experiences!