Alpine Summit

Sunday, January 29, 2006

My Day at the MEPS

(***warning*** Long Post Ahead ***warning***)

As some of you may have known, I went to the Denver MEPS to do my physical for entrance into the Army. First off, I'd like to say that I knew the military affords for lots of great stories for anyone in any branch of the service. I was not aware this was true even before entering. In fact, I didn't think that getting so many stories was possible in the span of 24 hours.

My day started Friday afternoon where I left Laramie with my Recruiter to go to Cheyenne. He was dropping me off with the recruiter there who was going to Denver with a couple of his own people--two girls out of high school. We ended up having to wait on one of those (I'll call her 'K') to get some paperwork filled out. This was about an hour sitting in the recruiting office doing absolutely nothing. After that, we finally were on our way and picked up the other person (I'll call her 'H') at her house.

I was somewhat droopy on the trip to Denver and fell asleep on the south side of Ft. Collins and woke up on the north side of Denver. K and H had to take their ASVAB test that evening at what the recruiter (Sgt. 'B') thought was going to be 6:30 p.m. Turns out the test was at 6:00 p.m. and we pulled up to the MEPS around 5:40. So its fortunate we made it because that would have sucked for them. After Sgt. B dropped them off, he took me to the Red Lion hotel. It's a really nice hotel with REALLY comfortable beds... but no SciFi channel on their TVs.

My roommate’s name was Miguel from Puerto Rico; a really cool guy who was trying to go active from the guard. He was afraid of being over the weight requirements for the physical the next day, so he kept going down to the bar to drink alcohol to dehydrate himself. I'm not sure if it worked, but he ended up getting pretty torn up and was drunk already when I first met him. After meeting, he invited me to go drinking with him and I thought it not best considering the upcoming exams I would be having. So, I stayed and watched TV while he went back down for another round of drinks. I figured he would be back in a short amount of time after having a drink, but he still had not come back to the room by 10 when I went to bed. The thought of him missing the shuttle bus the next morning made me smile a bit. I resolved to not letting that happen though... 'cause I'm a nice guy.

The next morning, I had set my alarm for 3:30 so I could take a shower. Wake up call was at 4:00, breakfast at 4:15 and the shuttle left at 5 a.m. for our 5:30 briefing... one of those "follow the rules so we don't have to yell at you" kind of speeches. Then after that speech, we were given our name tags and told to go to another room for a briefing. There the commander of the MEPS, Maj. Morales, gave us some overall rules (in a much friendlier way) and told us what we could expect for the rest of the day--it was about 6:30 by this time. After he was done, a nurse came in and helped us fill out the main papers we would be toting around for the rest of our medical exam.

The way MEPS is set up for the medical is that you have various stations you need to go to each with a specific purpose: blood/urine testing, vision/hearing testing, physical testing, and interview. After going to each station, you must then visit with the chief medical officer to discuss potential health problems and to get the final "okay" to move on to contracting and swearing in. I was just there for the medical, so after I finished with him I was pretty much done for the day.

My first stop was the interview where the doctor went over all the prior medical info I had provided to my recruiter. A pretty boring process, but they want to know EVERYTHING about your medical history. I even had to put down that I had acne as a teenager. A bit overboard I think, but I guess it helps flag problems later.

Urine testing was next for me where we were given instructions to pee in the cup, and then bring it and our papers to the window without letting go of the cup (we weren't allowed to let the cup leave our hands until they received it). Unfortunately, the instructions were more like "put your papers on the table (there was a table in the bathroom), pee in the cup, then take it to the window." He told us not to wash our hands until he told us to, and he told the first guy up to wash his hands the same time I was coming up, so I thought he was telling me to wash my hands. So I got yelled at for "not following the rules." Luckily, I didn't let go of my pee and therefore didn't have to wait to go again as other had to do.

Next up was the bloodletting, nothing special there, just took my blood. After that was the vision test where I discovered my vision is 20/200 and 20/400 in my left and right eye respectively. I hate having such weak eyes... on the bright side; I got a perfect score on the hearing. Finally after that, I was up to getting the physical.

Waiting with some of the other guys during the physical, we were all nervously laughing about the anal probe and if they would have to do that. We contemplated making signals to others on their way out of the exam to let the rest of us know of our impending doom. Luckily, though, the doctor just told us to bend over and spread our cheeks. I thought it was a little forward. I mean, I would have appreciated some sort of warm up before just diving right in (figuratively speaking).

Also while we were waiting, a guy joining the Marines infantry was wearing a "soldiers of Christ" t-shirt. It was a little corny I thought, but it prompted a little discussion with a guy about Christians joining the military and how it goes against our religion (supposedly) to fight for our country. He was more up for criticizing than listening, and it was escalating a bit so another guy changed the subject to avoid any kind of confrontation. The antagonist guy seemed less aggressive afterwards though, so who knows? Maybe we said something that made him think. It was a cool opportunity and I had been wondering if that sort of opportunity would present itself.

Back to the exam room. After doing the "poke and prod" part of the exam, we were herded en masse into a larger room where we were required to do several range of motion and flexibility tests. The funniest part was having to do these activities in our underwear. It's an interesting experience doing physical activity with other men who are half-naked.

After the tests were over, we put our clothes back on and left the exam room through a door by the waiting area. As I walked out, I noticed another group waiting for their turn with as much nervous anticipation as I had moments before. I walk out smiling and someone goes "another satisfied customer," to which I promptly responded "that’s right!" Then they all started laughing. Next stop: the chief medical officer where my roommate was calling me "L-T." I can't say I didn't like the sound of it, but it was a bit humbling. Anyway, I got a clean bill of health and a "tell your recruiter you passed... NEXT!!"

So that was MY day at MEPS. Unfortunately, one of the girls I came down with, K I believe, had stolen a bottle of nail polish when she was in 7th grade. Because of this, and because Wyoming does not release juvenile records to ANYONE, including the FBI, we had to sit and wait to see if would be able to some way to get those papers in to MEPS. For the next 5 hours, from the time I finished my physical to the time MEPS was getting ready to wind down for the day, I sat in the waiting area watching TV. Because of the rules, I was not allowed to sleep which only added insult to injury. We were expected to leave MEPS at about 12 or 1 p.m. and be on our way back to Cheyenne by that time. Because of K's criminal history, however, we didn't leave until about 3:30.

On our way back to Wyoming, we called my recruiter to see when he would be picking me up from Cheyenne. He informed us that he was in Greeley and it would be about an hour or so to get to Cheyenne. After we got back to Cheyenne, he wasn't there yet and so called him again where he informed us he was still in Greeley. Not only was he an hour from Cheyenne, but even if he had left that minute (which he didn't seem ready to do) it would have been another 2 hours before I would get home. The time was about 5:30 now and the sun had gone down. Luckily, Sgt. B offered to take me to Laramie and I was able to get back in town at about 7:00 after he had taken care of a few things before leaving.

So that was my day at the MEPS. I spent the rest of the day unwinding and watching TV with my girlfriend (and drinking beer--after all, I deserved it). I finally went to bed at about 1 a.m. Sunday officially ending my day at the MEPS. Overall: enjoyable, but not really "fun."

After going to the MEPS, I feel I have lost some of the fear and apprehension I had about joining the military. To see other regular guys like me doing the same thing was comforting. It was a very dynamic group of people and I certainly hope to see many of them again in my military career (IF I have a military career). The next thing I need to do after this is get my picture taken and go before the board of review to see if I'm officer material. Then we'll know for sure if I have a future in the United States Army.