My trip to MEPS was quite interesting (although, I would hope not to do it again). The whole affair started on Tuesday, technically, but I did not get to the hotel until Wednesday evening. Almost everyone who is getting a physical at MEPS stays in a hotel for the night before.
The hotel that I stayed at for the Tampa MEPS was called "Mainsail" and was about 20 minutes from MEPS. I arrived Wednesday night and was dropped off at the lobby. MEPS individuals were not checked into their rooms at the lobby but at a mobile check in station near the buildings dedicated to MEPS. The lady in the office was nice enough to provide me with a map and sent me on my way. I was confused as to what way I was going at first because I did not know the orientation of the map. I finally figured it out, however, and got to my destination.
After I had arrived at the mobile check in station (which was actually two hotel suites converted into a office: one had the waiting room and the other had the actual office), I waited. It was about 30 minutes that I waited but my group finally got called into the office and we were given a very stern lecture on how to behave while at the hotel. Essentially, that meant no alcohol, no running/screaming/disruption, no destruction, curfew at 2300, and only the assigned occupants were allowed in each hotel suite. The lady processed each of us individually and put us to a hotel suite with 2 other people.
My hotel room was quite big and I soon saw why three people were assigned to a single suite. The suites were apartment buildings converted into a hotel. My apartment was a two bedroom, two bathroom, one kitchen, one living room suite. The lady put me in the single person bedroom and I was very grateful for her doing this. After laying my items in my room, I went down to Latitudes (the hotel cafe) for a free dinner.
Sadly, they did not have much food for the MEPS people to begin with but as vegan/vegetarian MEPS person, I found only a salad and some fruit to my liking. (That is fine though as I have gotten used to that over the years.) I did like the salad because it had some orange tomatoes. I had never seen that before. Dinner was a over and I was almost filled but I had a granola bar for good measure when I got back to my room. And then I took a shower and set in for the night just a little before 2200. My alarm was set for 0430 (the official wakeup call was at 0445).
I am not sure how I slept that night but I woke up as soon as I had heard my alarm go off and I was already in the bathroom taking a shower before I knew it. While in my shower, the wakeup call came in on the phone but I had let it ring and so I missed it. I did not imagine that I was in the shower for long and while I was putting my clothes on, another had come in which I had picked up, listened too, and hung up. I checked my watch and it said 0445 so I imagine that the previous one was at 0440 or so. But I was off to the main lobby for breakfast at the restaurant.
Breakfast was worse than dinner. I had a bowl of grits, some chopped potatoes, and a glass of juice (apple, I think). Then I waited for 30 minutes for the shuttles to depart at MEPS. I had not boarded the shuttles so that I could use the restroom right before we left as I did not know when I would be able to use the restroom at MEPS. The shuttle ride took about 20 minutes and, after arriving at MEPS, we were taken off the shuttles in groups (which were two big coach busses--there were over 100 people doing the physical (134 was a number that I had heard in that context)). The people here for the physicals comprised the largest group and we were subsequently broken down into Navy and nonNavy.
We were instructed to line up outside of MEPS and given a lecture on procedure and protocol and told that if we had any weapons or sharp objects of any sort that we were to declare them immediately (before we entered into the building). At this point, I was worried because I had a few pens and pencils in my backpack as well as my keys. I thought about declaring them but I figured that I would just appeal to common sense if they said something because if I had said something, then someone might have gotten mad at me. I passed through the metal detector and my backpack passed through the x-ray machine with ease.
Once inside, I realized that the Navy group was already inside and they were lined up in the hallway all very quiet. NonNavy personal were designated into two different paths depending on whether or not the individual had and bags/backpacks/luggage. All loose items were to be stored in the cubby room but we all ended up in the liaison office waiting room. All the branches of the military are located there and do the specific individual branch processing. I was given a sticky tag with my name and a barcode and markered on a letter designating my status for that day. At first, my status was D (I do not know what it meant) but it got changed to F within 15 minutes after the 'mistake' was noticed. I chuckled inside a bit at that.
After receiving my blank medical papers, I was directed to MEPS medical processing where I was quickly checked in. My first stop was for a eye exam (presumably due to the "DEPTH" written on my tag). The lady administering the vision test was very nice to me after noticing my last name (which is German) and we had a very brief but quite fun conversation in German. I liked her a lot and she was very helpful to me for the rest of the day. After the eye exam, I was told that I have very good eyes and I was directed into the next room to get my blood pressure. No one commented on my blood pressure.
After those two tests, I was told to sit in the hallway by the blood pressure man. Some minutes later, the nice German lady who had given me my eye exam popped out and directed me to the hearing test. There, 8 people sat in a sound proof room and listened to very faint tones through 8 headphones. I was lucky 7. The instructions were to push a button whenever a tone occurred in order to stop that tone from sounding. I think that I passed but it was very difficult to hear some of my tones over the constant clicking of the buttons. And, to make matters worse, the booth was hardly sound proof! The outside was muffled slightly but I kept overhearing the conversation between the two technicians. It was quite annoying.
After the hearing test, I got a briefed on alcohol and was tested using a breathalyzer. Any alcohol--no matter what amount--that was detected would be grounds for immediate dismissal from MEPS and all processing would stop. I was really freaking out at this point. I had no alcohol the night before (indeed, I have only drunk heavily (1 or more equivalent of alcohol in a 24 hour period) thrice in my life). I was given a tube to stick into the machine and told to open it. I kept mine in the packaging until just before I was about to be tested. It came to me and I blew strong and forcefully. The man administering the test looked at the readout and wrote down what he saw. I was so relieved when I saw that it was negative.
After the alcohol test, I was directed to the orthoneural testing room. I had heard of this test and I took what I had heard with great calmness but when the whole thing actually happened, I was quite surprised. Not necessarily in a good way but I digress. . .
I had walked into the motion testing room where about 12 other people were (a lot of testes and some testers) and I was instructed to remove all of my clothes (sans the underwear--boxers for today). My height and weight were measured and I was directed into a doctor's office. I was asked a few questions and then instructed to sit on a stool where he did some doctory examinations (ears, eyes, chest). I thought that that was over but it was not. This was the exciting part! He had me remove my underwear. I froze for a moment and then complied. I had no idea on how I should act so I just stood there. He placed his gloved hands under my scrotum and directed me to turn left and cough. He had to repeat it twice before I did it. Then I was told to bend over and spread my buttocks with my hands. I quickly complied but I forgot to spread and he, again, told me twice. After he checked everything that he needed to, I was instructed to pull up my underwear and leave the office.
As I had said before, I have heard of this and I thought that I was ready for it but when it happened, I felt a flood of shock and fear over me. Having been through that, the rest of the test was very awkward for me. I was tense all over. The lady (doctor/nurse) made us do some exercises. I do not even remember all that we did but it was pretty fun. Kind of like a gymnastics class only more strict. I think that we all passed so that was good.
Next, we were directed to blood and urine testing. I was told to do blood testing first. Here, they determine what your blood type is and whether or not you have HIV. Those are the only two things that they check for, I think. The urine testing is for drugs. I do not know why they do not do both in one fell swoop with the blood. No matter, the blood testing was very quick. I thought that it would be bad because the needle looked thicker than when I had gotten my immunizations (which just pricked a bit) but it did not. It was cool (in a bad way, I would say) to see my blood being drawn. Apparently, blood tests are routine every year in the military.
Next was the urine test for me. This test was the hardest for me, I would say. Essentially, it was four urinals with no dividers between them and a green tape on the ground. All testes were to stand behind the green tape (about 1 foot away from the urinal) and place the cup in their left hand and begin urinating into the cup while your neighbors and the proctor could see you. I was too nervous the first time even though I really had to urinate. So I was dismissed from the testing room and told to drink more water.
I did so and I kept drinking for the next 30 minutes or so until I could not hold it in anymore. This one guy was kind enough to let me cut in front of him after I had asked. I really appreciated that. The second time I managed to do it. It took me the first minute to get a few drops but after that I managed to fill the container. I tried to finish in the urinal but I could not manage it with 8 people watching and so I just zipped my pants and held the rest in. We waited in a line for one more group of 4 and one group of 1 to do what we did. When that was finished, we all submitted out samples to a medical person who took a set amount of the urine and had us dump out any excess.
With that, my medical processing was over and it was time to check out. After I checked out, I headed over to my Marine liaison and submitted my medical records. At that time, lunch was called for us so I headed over to the MEPS room. There were Blimpie sandwiches, drinks, chips, fruits, and deserts. I did not find a vegetarian sandwich so I asked the lady and she was kind enough to go into the back and find me one. I really appreciated that. I included into my lunch a wrapped cookie, bottle of water, banana, and bag of Fritos. I ate my sandwich and banana there and asked to put the rest in my backpack (locked in the cubby room) to take home. It was a decent lunch.
I proceeded back to the Marine liaison office and waited in the waiting room for about 1 hour. I was called back in sometime after they had lunch (Popeye's). They told me that I had scored a 99 on the ASVAB (I still do not know what the highest score is) and that I was qualified for any job in the Marines but that MOS 0231 (Intelligence Specialist) was open and that I would be a fool not to take it. I said that I would take it then. I was actually unsure if I wanted that kind of job at the time that I accepted it but I think that in retrospect, it will be a very good job. I was given some paperwork to take to the final processing station.
Final processing was fairly quick. I got in and talked to a very nice Spanish lady who is (I think) in the Army Reserves. She had been to Iraq which was amazing to me and she put me at ease through the whole procedure. I liked her happy/uppity attitude. We just went over the final paperwork and made sure that everything was correct. Then she directed me to get all of my fingerprints taken at a station in the same room (she was in a cubicle).
As a aside, at MEPS, everything is done biometrically. When you first arrive, you get your picture taken a few times and then you get four fingerprints taken (left/right index and left/right middle). All through the day you have to scan your fingerprints whenever you do something new. It is pretty cool but kind of scary.
I got fingerprinted by a very professional and nice black man called Mister Dixon. He was in the Army Reserves, too. (That was when I realized that a lot of these 'civilian' employees are also Reservists.) He was really nice to me in explaining to me all about fingerprints and what to look for in fingerprints and how the machine works and all. It took longer than usual because the machine had messed up a few times but it was interesting. I got all 10 fingerprints taken in both rolling and flatpress mode. I was instructed to head back to the Marine liaison office and submit my paperwork. I did so and I was told to await the swearing in ceremony.
The swearing in ceremony was my first formal military event. Before we swore in, we got a briefing on how to act and what attention stance was versus what parade stance was. The key of both stances is to not lock out your knees. Apparently, the blood flow will get cut off and you will pass out or die. We also got a brief introduction of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) on the subject of desertion and absence without leave.
We were then herded into the ceremony room (which was a very lush and upscale room in relation to the rest of MEPS). Guys were called in first and told to tuck in the shirts. My pant lacked a button (the button fell off that morning) but I was wearing a polo shirt so that was good. I was assigned to the front row (there were two rows of four people each). We waited for a Army captain to arrive and give us the oath of enlistment. She arrived soon and instructed us to put up out right hands. I failed to and instead put up my left hand without realizing it. We each called out our names and then oath preceded. About halfway through, I realized that I had my left hand up and not my right hand so I quickly changed. The captain looked at me and I think that she laughed a little bit. When the ceremony was finished, we were dismissed to do a biometric signing of out contracts.
While she was biometrically signing us, the captain was very nice to us and kept asking us questions about us and told us to make sure that we work hard. When my turn to biometrically sign the contract came up, my file would not pull. We tried both my left and right fingerprints but nothing would work. I was instructed to go to the control desk and tell them that "the recruit is not identified" which I did (to the letter). By then, my recruiter had been waiting to pick me up for about 30 minutes. They had to print out a hard copy of the contract for me to sign. It took some time to do so (about another 30 minutes) but I did it. I submitted it to my Marine liaison and my recruiter came with me to submit to make sure that everything was finished and I could leave.
Before I left, I was given a quick introduction to boot camp where two of the Marine liaisons got all over me and tried to make me scream "YES, SIR!". It took a few times but I managed to actually scream it. It was kind of fun and I got one piece of advice: do not look the drill instructors in the eyes. Avoiding eye contact will usually spare you from their wrath and the drill instructors eye contact because it comes off as if you are challenging them. I will remember that!