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Navy Stories Episode 2 – MEPS – Military Entrance Processing Station
The last month at home
After graduating from high school, I only had a month of freedom until I started my military career. During this month, I simply celebrated and created anticipation. I met a pretty girl around that time who I couldn’t be with because I was leaving. It sucked. At least she agreed to keep in touch while I was gone and maybe one day we could see each other when I got back on leave.
The first place they sent me to was a place called MEPS (Military Entry Processing Station). The one I went to was located in Los Angeles. This building is the very first of a series of processing stations that you will come across. There, I went through a rigorous selection process. They process many potential navy candidates here, one at a time here.
I did the following and more of the following:
I did tons of paperwork. Some of the forms appeared to have been filled out multiple times. I remember being frustrated with having to queue after line, filling out form after form. All the while I was treated with a lack of customer service. There’s an expression used in the military called “Hurry up and wait.” You will learn what this phrase means the day you are treated by this facility.
If you’ve never used a signature before, you’ll be a pro by the time you leave this establishment. You must have signed dozens of forms. Recruiters even made me start practicing writing my signature from day one.
The forms you fill out go into what they call a service file. It’s the record of your entire military career. Along with the service record, you will also get a medical and dental record. These three records are pretty much proof of your military career and medical history. If you lose one of them, you will have to redo all the paperwork and all the medical, dental, etc. exams.
I remember hearing that if you pissed off a Corpsman on a ship, he would just throw your medical records overboard and you would have to get all the shots again.
So basically, it’s in your best interest to always make copies of each of your records.
Paperwork is only one piece of the puzzle. They must ensure that you are physically fit to perform your duties as a US sailor. So they gave us a series of physical tests. First they gave us a full body physical exam where they checked every part of our body and took many blood samples and tested it for everything imaginable.
Then they made us perform a series of weird physical movements in our underwear. For example, we had to fall from a standing position straight onto our knees onto the hard tile floor. I remember how, not cool that felt! Then they made us do things like crawl like a monkey, waddle like a duck, various stretches, walk slowly around the room so they could check for flat feet, etc.
Another thing noted was that this very old man with warts all over his face was the one doing the rectal exams. Not the most comfortable of situations, let me tell you.
Also, when they gave you a urine test, they had to see it coming out of the spring. At the same time, they were looking at me, insulting me, saying lots of shrewd remarks and all sorts of uncomfortable things that had to do with sexuality, manhood, etc.
The final parts of the exams involved a real psychic evaluation, a criminal background check with interview, and a swearing-in ceremony.
The mental assessment was basically whether we were crazy. We wouldn’t want to hire crazy people to defend the country, would we? They asked us a lot of interesting questions and I think we also took a written test. I wish I could remember some of the questions; they would make interesting content.
The background check and interview were scary. The first thing they did was put me in a private room with a counselor or something and he asked a lot of personal questions about my past. He asked me about the crimes I committed, the drugs I tried, the secrets I had, and more.
They kept telling me, “Don’t lie to us! If you do, we’ll find out anyway thanks to your background check!
I’m pretty sure it was also a test of honesty. I remember they were making sure I was sure I had never smoked marijuana in my life. I knew they wouldn’t find any drugs in my system, but I told them I tried it once as a teenager for experimentation. They of course noted that in my service book. I bet saying that got me disqualified from some top secret jobs.
Swearing in (the enlistment oath)
The Navy is all about ceremonies. They have ceremonies for everything! It makes things matter more. Like when I was promoted to E-4 (petty petty officer third class), there was a ceremony for all to see that I now had more authority. It was much more efficient that way.
Either way, at the very end of the MEPS treatment, you have to go through a swearing-in ceremony. It is basically a promise out loud that you will defend the country etc.
Here are the exact words you should say with your right hand raised.
I, ___________________, solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed above me, in accordance with the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
I remember feeling very proud during that time and feeling like I was part of something bigger. At the time, I really meant what I swore.
During the process, you will sit down with someone and decide what job you want to do in the Navy. There are many jobs to choose from and you must be qualified for them. They base your qualification on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test. It is a comprehensive test of skills in math, language, reading, problem solving and more.
My only goal was to become a SEAL, so I didn’t really care about my job. I just thought it would be SEAL. They said, “If you didn’t become a SEAL, what would you want to do?” I told them I wanted a computer-related job. They told me about these 3 learning programs. They are Fireman, Airman or Sailor.
The things I read about each sounded pretty good. The seamen’s apprenticeship program was the only one to mention the use of computers. Guess I didn’t score high enough on the test to get other jobs. So I chose the Seamen Sprenticship program. I would be in for a rude awakening later. We will come back to this in a later episode.
It was amazing the amount of scare tactics they used on you during the process. They basically convinced you that the most important thing was to pass the selection to become a member of the army. All this time I’ve been afraid of failing at something and they’re using it against you. They tell you things like, “Maybe you’re not cut out for the Navy.” Or “If you fail, you will be disqualified.” They make you feel like there’s nothing else to do but join the navy or you’ll be a failure.
They use tactics like this for a lot of things in the Navy. They use the fear of the unknown and your insecurities against you. Over time you will realize what you can and cannot do.
The whole process takes about 12 hours. You will be there from very early in the morning until the evening. It is a very long and stressful day and you will learn things about yourself.
Shortly after treatment, you get a plane ticket and date to travel to Illinois, where you begin Navy Boot Camp. This will be the subject of episode 3. Boot Camp lasts eight weeks, so it will be divided into different episodes.
I wrote this post based on my memories. If you strongly consider the Navy as a career, you should check out the current MEPS site for more details.
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