What to Expect on Your First Visit to MEPS
Have you noticed how often you get to hear that Status Quo’s “In the Army Now”?
It’s because you actually ARE in the army now.
I mean, technically not, but once you start asking around all the details regarding this, you are definitely closer to it with each step you take and each phase you go through.
For that reason, we have decided to do a brief research on what to expect on your first visit to MEPS.
It’s one of the initial questions all those serious about military life have, and there are several aspects each applicant should be familiar with.
Without further ado, let’s get down to explaining stage by stage!
WHAT IS MEPS?
Okay, the thing with the song was just a boost, you are technically still far away from being a soldier.
Though, MEPS certainly is the biggest and the initial step on that exciting journey you will be taking from the very first moment the whole procedure begins.
This abbreviation stands for Military Entrance Processing Station.
To put things simply, absolutely everything that has to do with joining the army starts at this very place.
This is the place where each applicant undergoes a thorough evaluation so to determine whether he/she is physically, mentally and morally compatible to fit.
These parameters are established by each branch of the Armed Forces.
As you can assume, you can expect a thorough yet not overly complicated procedure.
It actually all makes sense, and after all, you are a future soldier, certain requirements need to be fulfilled.
BEFORE YOU VISIT MEPS
Though common sense also does a great job in helping you make it clear what to and what not to do, still a brief reminder won’t hurt.
This means there are things you need to consider before you enter the station.
The sole purpose of that is to make it easier for you and to help you leave a better impression on the personnel out there.
Here’s the list of all the things each applicant should have in mind:
- Check with parents whether there are any health issues in the childhood that caused you troubles and if there are any records to state that, bring them with you.
- Don’t forget the birth certificate, driver’s license, and a Social Security Card.
- Dress appropriately and moderately, wear something comfortable and look neat. Pay attention there are no offensive wording or pictures on your clothes. Hats are not allowed. Wear underclothes.
- Take a bath or shower the night before the examination and get sleep well.
- Remove all the accessories, such as piercing, jewelry, headphones, watches and similar. It’s advisable not to bring excessive cash or any valuables.
- If you wear contacts or glasses, don’t forget the case and the prescription.
- To minimize the potential troubles, ask the recruiter to give you the list of recommended personal items you are allowed to bring to basic training.
- And last but not the least important- be Johnny-on-the-spot! The examination begins early, so don’t be late! Be well-rested!
Though some of these may sound silly (wear underclothes- like anyone could forget that!) when the moment comes, it’s a big one, don’t spoil it.
Feelings are mixed, there’s lots of excitement, fear, enthusiasm, expectations, pressure, and whatnot!
No matter how hard remaining calm it may be, do your best.
Don’t mess up the big moment by forgetting some of these.
After all, now that you have a list, it’s easier to check whether you have done it all right.
LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN AKA PRE-SCREENING AT MEPS
The very first phase of your new chapter in life starts before you actually leave.
Your recruiter needs to perform a medical “pre- screening“ and send them to the Station’s medical personnel beforehand. That way they can review them before you arrive.
There’s an important thing to point out here.
All the recruiters need to use the standard Station’s form, as doctor’s letters are not adequate.
That’s because civilian doctors are not aware of current military requirements and directives.
The purpose of pre-evaluation is to determine whether a person is qualified.
In some cases, when the condition is permanent (such as blindness, missing limb, and similar) the examination ends at that point.
However, if a candidate is “disqualified for the time being”, then it means he/she can take a trip to the Station, but after obtaining the necessary medical documentation.
Hospital records are the most accurate and therefore the most useful documents.
Here we shall list some of the situations which require adequate papers:
- Any hospitalization records
- Severe allergies or serious skin diseases
- Biopsies of tumors or lumps
- Heart condition
- Any surgery (except appendectomy, hernia, ligation of tubes and similar)
- Severe back or joint twists
- Problems with asthma (after the age of 13)
- Hepatitis, Mononucleosis
- Counseling history (family, marriage etc.)
As you can see, this detailed record will give a precise insight into a candidate’s health.
This is very important as only those with the impeccable record are the only suitable candidates.
THE FIRST ARRIVAL AT MEPS
The initial trip is usually a procedure which lasts for two days.
When candidates arrive (in the afternoon) they take the computerized ASVAB test.
That’s short for Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
Once the exam is completed, candidates are taken to a hotel where the Station pays for accommodation and meals. If applicants live nearby, they return home.
Those who check into the accommodation will receive instructions to sign receipt of a list of rules.
Though there may be slight variations from location to location, rules are pretty much similar.
They usually refer to prohibited usage of drugs and alcohol, curfew provisions, noise limitation etc.
If a candidate fails to follow any of these restrictions and rules, this means termination of the processing.
Do know that if an applicant, by any case, has taken and passed the Battery test within two years of the visit to the Station, he/she need not retest.
Make sure you really have a proper sleep as the next day is really a demanding and exciting one. Be responsible and reasonable, and follow all the rules and prohibitions.
Do not let a stupid act such as a glass of wine to relax spoils the great thing that awaits you when the morning arrives.
GOOD MORNING – DAY ONE AT MEPS, MEDICAL EVALUATION
It all starts very early, so make sure you are not late for the medical test.
One of the first thing upon arrival is a breathalyzer test where the stuff will check whether a candidate is under the influence of alcohol.
Even the smallest trace means disqualification.
A medical questionnaire is the first thing to complete. (We hope that you have talked with your parents about any childhood health problem because that way you will fill this form in without any doubts.)
After that, each applicant takes various tests.
Those include blood, urine and drugs, and pregnancy test for female candidates. Blood test includes Haematocrit, Haemoglobin, RPR, and alcohol. Urine test consists of 2 parts.
One detects legal drugs, and the other determines the values of pH, protein, blood and specific gravity.
After these, a candidate goes through a hearing and eye exam. The second one includes color vision and depth perception.
Although many jobs in the army require these to be at a normal value, lack of them is not a disqualifying factor.
Those who are joining Air force need to take a strength test as well.
Next phase – weight check. There’s a standard established by the service, and if an applicant exceeds, he/she is disqualified for the time being.
However, he/she may continue with the physical.
Remember the underwear we mentioned?
Hopefully, you did remember to wear those. At one point in the examination, a candidate has to undress, remaining in underclothes only. Male and female recruits are separated.
Female applicants are given a drape or gown, an when removing the clothes, a female attendant accompanies them.
After completing all of the above-mentioned test, candidates need to perform several exercises. The purpose is to evaluate balance and physical attributes.
If a waiver is required, do know that the Station does not require nor process it.
The service you are joining to does that.
There are significant variations how long until the approval or disapproval, as each waiver is individual.
Many factors have influence over that, and one of them is medical profile officer recommendation.
In addition to this, current needs and requirements of that particular service are also a determining factor when deciding whether to approve or disapprove.
Every potential candidate needs to be of good health, which is why these medical tests are vitally important.
Even if you have tried to mask or keep something for yourself, the thorough exam will reveal all that.
Therefore, do not lie, it’s for your own good.
WHAT IS ACTUALLY THE PURPOSE OF MEPS EVALUATION?
Some applicants may wonder why the procedure is so complex and multi-layered.
But, it’s joining the army after all.
There are several branches (or jobs, if you prefer), and MEPS will determine where would you fit the best.
Each of the fields may require some additional tests, which are specific and typical for that field only.
All the assessment is done under federal laws, policies and military regulations.
As we said, it is important to be completely honest.
Sometimes it may happen that even your recruiter advises you to lie or withhold some information.
However, do not do that. Consequences will be inevitable, and such behavior may result in termination of the entire process.
THE NEXT STATION – JOB SELECTION AT MEPS
Applicants who pass the ASVAB test and the medical examination go to the next phase-job counseling.
Assuming that you were responsible enough to research military careers beforehand, this should not be a difficult step. It’s good to have some idea in advance.
However, sometimes even a counselor may have several useful tips on which position could be suitable for you.
It may happen that it’s something you hadn’t thought of before, but it turns out that it suits you perfectly.
They will also answer any questions and doubts you have, so do not hesitate and ask whatever seems to be unclear to you. They can explain you each program so that you can have a better understanding of how will training and everything that comes after look like.
You will have enough time to review the list of available jobs.
After careful consideration, list them in the order of your preference and wait.
After the staff evaluates and makes their lists, each candidate gets them.
This usually results in two ways- an applicant is either “qualified and waiting” or booked for a job.
The first situation happens when there are no available positions as listed by the candidate.
YOUR NEW LIFE BEGINS WITH THE OATH OF ENLISTMENT!
Congratulations you have made it to the final stage of this adventurous journey.
But the greatest adventures await and will actually happen from the very moment the actual training starts.
Before that big chapter begins, there are still some things to finish. After ASVAB, medical examination and job selection, each applicant goes through a final interview. In addition to this, a candidate needs to leave fingerprints for the FBI and do a briefing prior to the Oath.
And once all these are done- the Oath! Family members are also welcome to share the special moment with you and observe you take the Oath.
They can even take photos of you and the officer giving you the oath. Such a unique moment is definitely a memorable one.
Candidates who enter the Delayed Entry Program or not enlisting at this time return home.
Those who enter active duty will receive instructions on further arrangements regarding basic training.
WHEN THE LIGHTS TURN OFF…
All in all, this was a complex journey.
For some candidates, the end of the day means the end of the MEPS experience.
For the others, it represents the beginning of the next chapter in life- military career.
Yet, there are those who need to undergo few specialized tests for the field they are interested in. Moreover, there are those who are “qualified and waiting” until the vacancy.
Whichever category you belong to, you have to congratulate yourself for going through such an emotionally and physically demanding experience.
Whatever was the result, you certainly learned many useful things on the way.
MEPS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Although we gave you quite a thorough insight into the whole procedure, there are still some questions in the air.
Of course, each candidate has millions of them, but we shall try to answer only those which are in common for all of them, regardless of the field they are applying for.
- Can citizens of other countries apply for MEPS?
- Only people who are legal residents in the US and possess a Bureau Of Citizenship and Immigration Services Alien Registration Card (aka Green Card) can apply.
- What are the general qualities necessary to join the U.S. Armed Forces?
- Each applicant must meet certain standards. He/she needs to be mentally, morally and physically ready. Moreover, he/she must have good English skills (fluent speech, excellent writing, and reading). Each candidate needs to be between 17 and 35.
- How long are the ASVAB and physical test results valid?
- Both of them are valid for two years, which means a candidate can reapply in that period without having to go through then test again. Of course, if some medical conditions occurred in the meantime, an applicant is obliged to inform the staff. They will determine whether a candidate needs to go through some additional tests and examinations.
- How do I prepare for ASVAB?
- You don’t, actually. This test is about common knowledge, you either have it or you don’t. The only thing you can do is see how the test itself looks like and inform on a general basis.
- Which are the army branches?
There are three main fields – Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.
Furthermore, each of them has categories, positions, rankings and so on.
These are indeed the most basic ones.
There will be many more on the way, and your recruiter may also help you with those.
As we said, feel free to ask, it will make things significantly easier both for you and the staff.
GENERAL TIPS ON A TRIP TO MEPS
Now that you know how the entire procedure looks like, take a deep breath and begin your journey.
The most important is to be as focused as possible and try to control your emotions.
You need to remain calm and that’s the most challenging and the most difficult part of all.
A good plan, though, does the half of the job.
That’s why we did this research after all. Once again, we shall go through each of the steps and give you a few more useful tips on each of them.
To start with the preparation, you already have the list of things you should and shouldn’t bring with you.
Make sure you have gathered all the necessary information regarding your childhood health.
Once again, be honest. If anything happens later, and by that we mean some medical issue, which may be the result of something that you lied or withheld, you will be the one dealing with the consequences.
And the worst-case scenario would be: expelled from the army!
You surely wouldn’t like that.
Don’t forget to bring all the records with you. If you forget any piece of paper, that only delays the entire procedure.
Moreover, they can label you as irresponsible, and a future soldier should look like that, right?
Then, dress properly and do not bring any of the accessories we mentioned, as they will only bother you.
A future candidate needs to show that he/she is capable to follow the instructions and act smartly from the very beginning.
In addition to this, have a good night’s sleep and look relaxed and fresh in the morning.
We know, it’s easier said than done.
There’s lots of excitement in the game, so it’s very difficult to control your emotions and thoughts but do your best.
After all, that count as well.
When the medical examination begins, listen to the instructions carefully and follow them.
You have surely been on numerous check-ups of such kind, this one is just a bit more detailed than they commonly are.
Just keep calm and follow the instructions, that’s all.
These factors that are closely related to each candidate’s individual journey and MEPS evaluation, but still there’s the question of family members.
A parent or a spouse will, quite naturally, wish to be by your side during all the procedure. The rules vary from recruiter to recruiter.
The can be accommodated in the same hotel as the applicant, but not in the same room.
The applicant is usually paired up so that they can bond with each other and make some sort of friendship.
There will be lots of sitting, standing, and what not, it’s no time for silly conversation.
We point this out as sometimes the close ones can be quite a distraction in these situations where you need to be focused and cool-headed.
They are excited as well, but you are the one going through the whole thing and you need some space for yourself. Try to make a balance. Tell them if they bother you, but in a way to avoid hurting their feelings.
The good thing is that they can be present during the Oath, and share the most memorable of all moments with you.
Make sure they have the permission to take photos or videos.
The whole thing is about privacy, confidentiality, and security that should be put in the first place.
It has been long, long research.
But we hope that you find plenty of useful information here. We are glad to have helped you and, in a way, became a part of one important stage of your life.
Like we said several times, there are inevitably numerous questions with no answers still out there.
We have done our best to give you as many answers as possible and make the whole thing less stressful.
Now that you know what to expect on your first visit to MEPS, what is left is to begin your exciting journey.
It’s not an easy road, no one said it would be, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s entirely up to you to determine.
The calmer you are, the smoother the trip will be. What is left is to wish you good luck and say, may the (U.S. Army) Force be with you!
And you in it, of course!
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