The purpose of a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) is determine if an applicant meets the physical qualifications, aptitude and moral standards to join the military. As an HPSP student, MEPS focuses just on the physical qualifications, and you will not be asked to complete a computerized ASVAB on arrival unlike applicants who are hoping to enlist. The process still takes several hours so be prepared to spend most of your day there.
The physical examination portion of the day consists of height and weight measurements, vision and hearing exams, urine and blood tests, muscle group and joint maneuvers and balance testing, followed by a physical exam by a physician and an interview. Fair warning to the shy, you will have someone accompany you to the restroom and yes, they will watch you urinate. If your experience is anything like mine, you will have a very intimidating sergeant staring you down as you try to salvage any modesty you may have. My only advice is to get used to this kind of in-processing, as you will have to go through it again in the future.
The muscle group and joint testing takes place in a group of candidates of the same sex. I was fortunate in that I was the only female who was processing the day I went so it was just me alone in a room. You will be instructed to follow a variety of exercises as the physician observes. The physician will be looking at your range of motion, muscle strength, symmetry, scars, pain with movement or any other abnormalities. The maneuvers may feel kind of silly, and you’re required to strip down to your undergarments for this portion of the test, but everyone has to go through it!
For a lack of a better description, the physical exam itself is awkward. The physician who performed my exam was a male, so I had a female enlisted member with me for the entire duration of my exam. The female is required to be in the room as you undress and she stood at the foot of the bed for the duration of the exam. The exam itself consists of heart and lung examination, a breast exam and an external genital exam. Once everyone in the group has had their physical exam you meet with the doctor one-on-one in an office in which they ask you a variety of questions ranging from drug use, to traffic violations to mental health. Once you have finished with the physical exam and interview you will be instructed how to check out of the medical process. Typically you are offered lunch and then you are free to go!
- For HPSP applicants, MEPS is typically your first exposure at “life in the military“. The process will be much, much easier if you follow the rules, be respectful, and try not to draw too much attention to yourself (today is not the day to show off fancy underwear) Also, no worries, you will not be yelled at… They save that for commissioned officer training 🙂
- Bring copies of your medical records. It’s better to be over prepared, than be unable to fill our your paperwork because you can’t recall dates or procedures.
- Much of your day will be “hurry up and wait”. You will be shuttled from station to station and will have to wait at each one. I’d recommend bringing a book.
- Tell the truth! Don’t try to hide any current or previous medical condition. If, and when a lie is caught, you’ll face some pretty serious consequences.
- Don’t drink the day before or the day of MEPS. The very first thing you do when you arrive at MEPS is take a breathalyzer. If there is any trace of alcohol in your system (even if you are below a legal limit and are of age), they will not allow you to continue processing.
- Bring your prescription glasses. If you are a contact wearer like I am, I’d recommend you just wear glasses the day of so you can save some time and not have to tote around a case or solution.
- Keep in mind the doctor conducting your exam is not your family doctor. They are there to assess your overall health, they will not write prescriptions or give you a second opinion.
- Start or continue a physical fitness regime. Although you won’t need to do a physical fitness exam (push-ups, sit-ups, running) during MEPS, this is your first step to joining the military and you will be expected to be in shape for the duration of your military career.
- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet one of the standards, there are many exceptions to the rules so even if you fail a portion of the test doesn’t necessarily mean you are no longer eligible to join!