Going to the Military Entrance Processing Station was the third step to becoming a soldier, after talking to a recruiter and taking the ASVAB. Perhaps the biggest step, in terms of what you do, is the MEPS. It's a long process, and you'll take, most likely, the most thorough physical of your life.
After taking the ASVAB your recruiter will schedule a day for the MEPS. Mine was just a week after the other, but yours may vary. The way the MEPS works is over the course of 2 days you will stay at the processing station and be tested on the morning of the second day. You will need an overnight bag because you will be spending one night in a hotel.
Things to bring to the MEPS:
- Change of clothes. Shirt, pants, socks, underwear (men, no thongs. Yes they say that!)
- Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap. Most toiletries were provided at my MEPS hotel room but bring them just in case.
- Paperwork. Any paperwork you have yet received might be useful, your recruiter will then tell you which to keep with you.
- Something to do. You might be sitting around in your room for a while, bring a book.
The day I left for the MEPS my recruiter picked me up in the afternoon. We left for the recruiting station to pick up another recruit who would also be going through the MEPS. We got there just before dark and got a good taste of being in the military. I was the first one there, and that meant waiting. Over the course of an hour the rest of the recruits began arriving. There were about 25 recruits by the time we got started, most of them National Guard. I felt a bit odd being one of the few active duty there, but everyone was relatively easy to get along with. Luckily, after the large line of recruits had formed, my recruiter took me up to the front of the line because we were there first (and he probably wanted to leave, we were there for a while!). I was given a name tag, a room key, and told to meet out front for the dinner bus in an hour. So I went to my room, made a cup of tea, jumped on the bed, and then went out for the dinner bus. Dinner was not too bad, but the running joke was that if we wanted to eat good food like that we should be in the Air Force (because my MEPS was on an Air Force base).I sat with a few kids that were going active Army, as the separate branches seemed to eat together. They were young, only 18, and still in high school at the time. One was hoping to become an EOD, the other infantry. They made for good conversation, and after dinner it was back on the bus. Back in my room I sat in bed and tried to sleep, as we were told it would be an early, and long, day. They weren't kidding!
At 4:30 in the morning a loud pounding on the door came. I was ready because I had set my alarm, but having only gotten 3 hours of sleep, I was not feeling great. I answered the door and was told that I had 15 minutes to report to the desk downstairs. Everyone lined up to wait for the bus, and by 5:00 we were off.
When we arrived at the building where the tests would be done we were all briefed on how the day would go and then sent to sit in a large room and wait. In this waiting room we were told to find the door of our respective branch, and here is where being active Army paid off. I was quick to get to the Army door where I was able to get started on my processing. Some people ended up waiting at their branches door for nearly an hour, mostly National Guard I believe. From there it was testing, eyes, ears, blood (first time getting blood drawn, not bad at all), urine, reflexes, and a few strange tests like the duck walk. Then there was the questions for the doctors to ask. They were things like "Have you been to the hospital within the last 6 years?", "Have you ever used marijuana?", "Have you ever gotten a traffic ticket", and dozens of other. Just answer them honestly and you will be fine. They will find out if you lie, I am told. This took hours, many hours, because each test was a different station and each station had to do one group at a time. All in all the tests weren't bad tho.Then it was back to the waiting room for a while, and eventually I got to talk to the guy that put everything in stone. I sat down and told him "I want to be a tanker. 19 Kilo sir." and he said "Clickity Clank, I drive a tank! eh?". He was a very nice guy, and when it turned out that all the 19K training slots were full, he worked for nearly a half hour trying to get it for me. He eventually had to talk to someone high up to get me the slot, like calling a store and talking to the store manager I suppose.
After some more waiting a group of recruits and I went to swear in. This was pretty exciting because it meant we were really on our way to becoming soldiers. Before an officer we all put up our right hand and swore an oath to serve our country. As tired as we all were, we were very proud of ourselves. It was finally time to head home for me, but there were still many hours ahead of some others. I was exhausted, it was about 5:00 at night and we had been testing all day. But now I had sworn in, picked a MOS, and gotten a day to ship for BCT. My ship date was about two months from my MEPS day, but some people left a week after MEPS.