Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My First MEPS Experience and How Stupid I Was

     I arrived at the recruiter’s around 1400 or 2:00pm.  I filled out a few pieces of paperwork, and then he questioned me again about the hot topic questions.  He did this in the hopes I would not suddenly reveal something at MEPS  (haha yeah…that didn’t work…).  After this I waited for him to finish his own work, and we headed out to the hotel around 1600. 

What to bring to MEPS:
                -ID and Social Security Card
                -Any forms or documents your recruiter told you to bring
                -Change of clothes (x2 if you’re there for two nights)
                -Pajamas or something to sleep in
                -Contact lens case, contact solution (or just bring and wear your glasses)
                -A book to beat the boredom
                -Change for a snack or drink from a vending machine
                -Cell phone (though there are specific rules for where you can have a cell phone)

     For the rest of My MEPS Experience, Advice about whether or not to withhold information, and a video of the Duck Walk click "Read More" or read below.

     At the hotel the recruiter led me and my bag to the “Freedom Club” where the MEPS sign in and hang out area was.  It was a sweet set up.  Several TVs hooked up to DVD players, Cable, and PS3s, a few computers, and a weird bumper pool table thing. 
     I signed in, received my room key, voucher, and tag for my bag.  I said goodbye to my recruiter and then headed upstairs to my room.   My roommate had already dropped her stuff off and left.  I collapsed on the bed, again wondering how crazy I am to do this.  I picked up a book and read until my stomach told me it was dinner time.  I had been hoping my roommate would return and we could go to dinner together, but I am a big girl.  I headed to the restaurant inside the hotel and presented my meal voucher.  In the corner I saw a gaggle of young people, so I headed over.  Once they told me they were here for MEPS too I grabbed a seat.
     At the table were five guys and one girl, who happened to be my roommate.  She was an incredibly sweet girl.  This was her second time at MEPS.  She was there to get X-rays of her back because of spinal issues.  Also at the table were two guys who were set to be shipping out the next day.  How it works with MEPS is that you go at least two times.  The first time is to qualify you to enlist and the second is right before you ship to boot camp to make sure nothing big has changed since your last physical.
     For the rest of the night I hung out with these kids (kids I say because I’m pretty sure I was the oldest in the group).  A short meeting and old instructional video about MEPS later and it’s nearly time for the 2200 curfew.  I’ve never had a curfew.  It was weird, but I liked having a curfew; no one was expecting me to stay out late and party.  I could go to sleep early and no one would guilt me to do otherwise.
     0400 came sooner than I wanted it to come.  Even though my roommate and I were on time to checkout we were among the last ones at breakfast.   Then of course after all that hurry we had to wait an hour for the shuttle to come get us.  The shuttle took us to the federal building that houses MEPS and we were made to stand outside in the snow while the Marine sergeant got us organized.  Three lines.  The first was for those shipping out today.  Only three people were in that line.  The next line was for those who had been to MEPS before and were just coming in for a consultation.  The last line, the one I was in, was for those poor saps getting full physicals.  I looked over at the consultation line and saw it was nearly long as the full physical line.  Got to say it was not an encouraging sight. 
     Once we made it through security (Remember NO WEAPONS, not even a pocket knife) we headed up to MEPS.  Once we all got our paperwork, those of us there for the full physical lined up outside the medical section of MEPS.  Then the barrage of tests (may vary slightly depending on where you have MEPS). 
     First we had our blood pressure and pulse taken.  Then I had my hearing checked next.  We wore a headset and had a buzzer we would click whenever we heard the tone.  My hearing in my right ear was better than my left, but I still passed easily.  Oh.  Vision was next.  Let me preface this by saying I am nearly blind without my glasses.  He had me take off my glasses to use the machine.  (If you wear contacts he'll make you take them out and will bitch at you if you don't have solution.  Some kid got a dressing down because he didn't have any.)  I could barely read ANY of the letters that came through the view screen of the machine.  Color blind test went by easily enough, though I missed one, couldn’t tell if it was 76 or a 78.  Since my eyes were so bad I was tested on another machine.  I’m not sure what it does, but the tech couldn’t get it focus on my right eye.  Apparently I have a bad astigmatism.  Left was fine though.  The result?  I was borderline on automatically qualifying so I have to see an eye consult.  I thought to myself, “A consult already?”  I was bummed.
     Next the deluge of paperwork and this is where I really got stupid.  They threatened us by saying if we withheld any information we could get a large fine or be sent to prison.  I was worried if they looked at my medical records they would see I had a brief case of exercise-induced asthma when I was 10, and I didn’t tell them about it I surely would be sent to jail.  Even though now with hindsight, unless they have a reason to look at your medical records or unless something becomes a problem, they’re NOT going to look at your medical records.  Not to mention they’re not likely to prosecute anyone for doing that.  But sleep deprivation and my personal integrity made me include it on my medical form.
     After this was the interview with the Doc.  She seemed very kind to me, no-nonsense, but not mean like she was described to me.  She asked me some questions, including about my childhood asthma.  She looked at my eyes, ears, and a few others things.  She was impressed I was a grad student, though she wondered why I wasn’t going OCS (Officer Candidate School).  The answer is simple.  I want to do medical.  I can’t do that as an officer unless I have a medical degree of some sort.  As I was leaving I asked her how bad my eyes were.  She told me she had seen much worse and I shouldn’t have any problems getting a waiver for that if I needed it.  I breathed a sigh of relief (it didn’t last long).
     Blood was taken from the vein in the inner elbow and then all that was left was the gender specific stuff.  The single other female recruit having the full physical and I went into a separate room.  We were told to strip down to our bra and underpants (I wore a sports bra and boxer briefs).   The assistant, who was really friendly, got our height and weight.  Next she looked at the arches in our feet and asked us a few questions about our feet.  She asked us about tattoos, birth marks, and lastly scars.  I have a few scars.  All they asked about them was were the scars surgical or traumatic, or if they looked suspicious how they happened.  They also checked inner arms for signs of cutting.  The other recruit asked if they get a lot of cutters.  The woman told us “More than you think.  It’s so sad.” 
     Then the pee test.  I had been drinking water all last night and this morning to prepare.  I was ready to go, except my shy bladder lived up to its name.  Eventually I got out enough, but having someone watch you makes things real tough.  After that I and the other recruit waited around in our underwear for a long time.  We had to wait on the doctor.  When she finally came in, she double checked the work the assistant did and then we did the 23 range of motion exercises.  They want to make sure you have full range of motion in all your joints and that you don’t have joint damage.  Part of this was the infamous duck walk, which…words can’t do it justice.  It was difficult, but I passed.
     All that was left then was the female exam.  I put on one of those hospital gowns, and took off my underclothes.  In a room off the main room was the Examination room.  In there the doctor did a breast exam and an external gentitalia check, no internal.  It was very awkward, but since I want to be a doctor I’d just thought how I’d be if I was the doctor.  Then I was done.
     More waiting, then I was handed a few pages to show my military liaison.  I was so excited.  I thought that if they were sending me to the liaison that meant I was going to do job selection today.  Wrong.  All it meant was to show him what I still needed, which was an eye consultation. I thought to myself, “Okay no problem.  I already knew I needed that.”  AND I needed to get my medical records.  Why?  Because I admitted I had a short bout of asthma when I was ten.  The Army doesn’t care unless the asthma was diagnosed at 13 or later.  However when I asked for the reason, they said they needed the medical records to see if I was lying or not.  Hell!  I could lied and not have admitted it in the first place and I would have been better off!
     Due to my honesty while I could have had my eye consultation done that day I could no longer, because my processing is stalled pending my medical records.  Now the physician I went to for this was many moves ago as well as states.  But I have to get the records.  Plus sending them in doesn’t mean anything.  They could still approve or disapprove.  So I have to go to MEPS again, after my records are in and hopefully approved, next week just for the eye consult.  I could have been done today if it weren’t for my honesty.
     When I told my recruiter he wasn’t exactly pleased.  You’re supposed to tell them everything, but seriously it slipped my mind until faced with imprisonment!  The system is effed up.  They made a guy get a psych consult because he forgot he got a few moles removed.  It’s messed up man.  It’s a wonder they find any recruits healthy enough to join when they’re so nitpicky with every single thing you admit.  One last example of the system being broke.  They lost this kid's paperwork, but then re-found it with a marijuana charge with a name and signature that wasn't his own.  AND they said he must have wrote a different name and signature, not the more likely possibility that they messed the paperwork...   
    On top of this I don’t know if I can even get the job I want!  In related news, I pretty much confirmed that my recruiter was lying about other services not having medical open.  It doesn’t matter though because the Army owns my soul (and my important documents) until this MEPS thing is figured out.
     Is it worth it?  I don’t know.  I guess we’ll see.  

Advice about whether to withhold:

   My advice to you is that if the medical problem wasn’t recent, isn’t going to affect your performance, and hasn’t left any obvious indicators on our skin (like surgery might) then DON’T REVEAL IT!  Don’t give me this bull about withholding.  They will take every little thing you say and even if it happened ages ago, will DQ you in a second.  For instance the recruiter told me of this smart, good kid who was perfectly fine until MEPS and he told them when he was four he had anal polyps.  Permanent DQ.  All he wanted was to be a part of the military and because of his admission he will never be able to do so.  Don’t get DQed for some stupid stuff like that.  Just forget you ever had those problems.  Be ignorant.  I AM NOT saying hide the major stuff, just the little things which do not have any effect on your current performance.  

     The Duck Walk

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