Your Trip To MEPS – Everything You Need To Know To Pass
So you’ve decided to enlist in the military, but your recruiter says you need to go to MEPS before you can leave for basic training. If you’re like most people, you’re probably asking, “wtf is MEPS?” In this article, I’ll detail what MEPS is, what you’ll do there, some things to look out for, and give some tips on how to make the best of your time throughout the process.
What Is MEPS?
MEPS is short for Military Entrance Processing Station, and it’s where you’ll take the ASVAB, get medically screened, and eventually swear in – if you pass, that is. Generally, you’ll take the ASVAB on the first day, stay the night in a hotel, and do your medical screening and swear-in on the second day.
A quick search about MEPS will bring up countless posts about how tedious the process is, and there’s no doubt you’ll come across some horror stories. For instance, I knew a guy who found out he had a congenital heart defect while getting screened at MEPS. That’s a major issue, but there are quite a few even minor conditions that can disqualify you.
MEPS is there to make sure you’re healthy before going through what will most likely be some of the most rigorous training of your life. It sucks if you have a disqualifying condition, but at least you can find out about it before it becomes dangerous. Not to mention, it’s hardly advantageous to the military to spend so much time and money on training you only to find out you are physically incapable of performing your duties.
What To Wear
You’ll see a lot of people at MEPS wearing a t-shirt and shorts, but you absolutely don’t want to do that. It’s best to wear professional clothing, think:
- Collared shirt
- A belt
- Clean, closed-toed shoes
- Suitable underwear (you will get sent home if you’re going commando.)
- Granny panties – no lace or thongs.
- No sports bras! Wear a bra with clasps in the back.
- For any males reading this, opt for boxers instead of compression shorts.
Don’t forget to pack two of everything so that you have a change of clothes for the next day. Regarding hair, you can wear it in any style you want, but make sure to bring a hair tie if you choose to wear it down. There will be a portion of the medical screening where you’re asked to put your hair up in a loose bun.
Etiquette While At MEPS
While you’re there, you’ll address every staff member as either sir or ma’am. You’re also expected to give the proper greeting of the day when appropriate. Just have a basic level of respect for people there, and you’ll be fine.
One major thing to avoid is falling asleep. Everyone knows you’ve been up since before the crack of dawn, but they can actually send you home if you’re caught sleeping. Most MEPS have TVs in the waiting areas, so try to distract yourself with that if you feel like you’re falling asleep. Also, no one will fault you for standing up, or taking a short walk around the room to keep yourself awake.
What To Bring
In addition to your change of clothes and an overnight bag, here are some things you should bring:
- Government I.D.
- Social security card
- Birth certificate
- Eyeglasses (if you wear them)
- Razors are allowed; males should bring them to shave the morning of, but they’re optional for females.
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, deodorant, etc.)
- Phone (you’ll have to lock it up during the day)
- Phone charger
- $20 spending money during travel
- Optional: A book
- Valuables/stacks of cash
- Cigarettes or vape pens
Where Will You Go For MEPS?
There are processing stations in almost every state, excluding Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Kansas, Wyoming, and Nevada. If you live in any of the previously mentioned states, you’ll simply have to travel to the closest processing station. Don’t worry, the government will put you up in a hotel and pay for your food since most people will be staying over night.
This map from USMEPCOM can help you find your nearest MEPS:
What Tests Are Taken At MEPS?
You’ll get a ride to MEPS from either your recruiter or a government-funded shuttle. The ASVAB starts at a certain time on the first day, but both of those transportation methods will get you there on time. If you’ve already taken and passed the ASVAB, you’ll still have to go to the MEPS to take some extra tests. You’ll definitely be taking the TAPAS, and depending on your job, could take the cyber test and the DLAB. More on those a little later.
The ASVAB stands for Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test, and unlike traditional tests, it measures your aptitude in certain areas, rather than how “smart” you are. If you’re more mechanically inclined, for example, your line scores will reflect that. The test basically tells you what kind of jobs you could perform well based on knowledge and skills you already have.
It’s critical that you do well on this test, so brush up on your high school math and English if you need to. The higher your score, the more jobs that are available to you. You can’t learn these things overnight, so make sure to start studying at least a few weeks before you’re set to take the test. You have a lot riding on this test, but under no circumstances should you cheat, or even look like you’re cheating. Not only will that get you sent home from MEPS, but you’ll be barred from enlisting in any branch of the military.
Once you’ve completed the ASVAB, you’ll move on to the other tests: TAPAS, Cyber, and the DLAB.
TAPAS stands for Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System. In short, it’s a personality test for the higher-ups to see what kind of people are joining the military. I won’t lie, it’s kind of whack. Let’s just say that the answer choices leave a lot to be desired. It’s not a test you can pass or fail, though, so don’t worry about it.
The Cyber test gauges your knowledge with computers, and a high enough score will qualify you to enter cyber intel. You’ll take this test if you want to go into the intel field. But if you’re not shooting for cyber intel specifically, you don’t have to worry about passing this test, either. Still do your best, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t do that great.
Finally, you’ll take the DLAB if you’re going into the intel or language fields. Your score only matters if you want to be a linguist of some sort. It’s completely different from the TAPAS, but just as weird. You’ll be given the rules to a language, and you use them to answer questions and translate phrases or words. If you hope to be a linguist, check out this page to see what scores you need to qualify for certain languages.
You’ll be fed lunch at the MEPS if you’re there during those hours. Once your ride gets there, you’ll be taken back to the hotel, be given a brief on what you can and cannot do, then head to your room. Before COVID, everyone had a roommate, but it’s my understanding that everyone gets their own room at the moment. The hotel will feed you dinner, and you’ll want to go to bed at a reasonable time, because it’s going to be an early morning.
What’s The Medical Screening Like?
Set multiple alarms, because you definitely don’t want to sleep through the 4 am wake up call. The hotel will call your phone to wake you up, but I wouldn’t rely on that alone. After you get ready, you’ll head down for breakfast and leave to the MEPS from there. Make sure you don’t have any items that they’ll confiscate, like weapons, anything flammable, or drugs. I also don’t recommend bringing anything valuable, because the MEPS can’t be held responsible if it breaks or goes missing while it’s locked up.
Once you get to the MEPS and get checked in, your screening process will start. The order of events differs by station, but you’ll get weighed and measured, and do a hearing, vision, urine, and blood test. Once those are done, you’ll do a physical maneuver test and have an exterior examination/interview done by a doctor.
This one is pretty easy if your eyesight is fine, but they’re testing for colorblindness or if you need glasses. Being colorblind will disqualify you from certain jobs, but it won’t disqualify you from enlisting. Same goes for if you’re near or far-sighted. It’s really not that big of a deal. If you already wear glasses, bring them with you.
For this test, you and a bunch of other applicants will head into a booth, throw on some headphones, and face a wall. You’ll hear increasingly higher pitched sounds, and you have to press a button when you think you hear something. It’s only a couple minutes long, but there will be many times that you second-guess yourself. Pro-tip: close your eyes and try to take shallow and quiet breaths. It’ll make it easier to hear the faint sounds.
For this one, they’ll give you a cup and you have to pee in it under supervision. I won’t lie, it’s pretty awkward to try and pee while someone is staring directly at you, but it’s just something you have to do. If you can’t “perform,” you’ll have to come back to the MEPS another time. Drink lots of water and try not to pee until it’s time for your test. Your urine will be tested for drugs and pregnancy.
Not surprisingly, this is the test that freaks people out the most. It’s nothing crazy, just don’t look at the needle if you’re not a fan of being poked. They only take a small amount anyway, and it’s to check for alcohol and conditions like HIV.
The infamous duck walk is a part of this test, and it’s surprising just how many people fail it. In a crouched position, you’ll step forward with your heel, and roll onto the ball of your foot. You’ll continue walking like that until you reach the end of their designated test distance.
In addition to the duck walk, you’ll perform movements like standing up from a kneeled position without using your hands, arm rotations, leg sweeps, balancing, jogging in a circle, etc. If you’re of a normal physical condition, these tests shouldn’t pose a problem. Definitely practice the duck walk and the kneeling-to-standing maneuver before you leave for MEPS, even if you think you can do them. The last thing you want is to fail while you’re there.
Exterior Examination And Interview
You’ll be instructed to remove all your clothing, including undergarments, and put on a robe. From there, you’ll wait your turn to go into a small examination room with a doctor. The doctor will examine you for any cuts, burns, or other visible wounds, and also have you perform certain range of motion movements.
One part of this test is extremely awkward. You’ll be instructed to spread your legs and cough while they examine your uh… anus. It’s a similar process for the genitals, too. Just do it quickly and get it over with. The doctor has done it thousands of times, so try not to let it get to you.
Once the examination is over, the doctor will ask you a series of questions. This is where a lot of people get disqualified. Basically, you should have disclosed any relevant medical information to your recruiter and filled out paperwork for it. If your answers don’t match up to the test results or any medical records you’ve provided, they can disqualify you. The seriousness of the condition determines whether you’re permanently disqualified, or just have to get further documentation and come back another time.
Stick to your guns, and keep your story straight. I’m not suggesting you lie, but there’s really no way for them to know if you are. They say that the FBI will get involved, you’ll go to jail, yadda yadda. It’s all a crock of crap. HIPPA law prevents them from going into your medical records, and that’s the truth. They don’t know anything unless you tell them.
The way they phrase questions is pretty sneaky, too, so watch how you respond. For example, instead of asking if you’ve ever done drugs, they’ll ask, “when was the last time you did drugs?” If you hesitate, they’ll know to probe further into that vein of questioning, hoping that you’ll slip up. They’ll deny it, but it’s literally their job to disqualify you – and they’re very good at it. I’ve never broken a bone in my life, and by the end of their speech, I was wondering if I’ve ever broken my leg but just forgot about it.
One more thing, you’ll get fingerprinted at some point between the end of your medical screening and the beginning of the swear-in ceremony. The timing depends on your MEPS, but it’s a straightforward process. They’ll take prints of all 10 fingers using one of those finger pads. Just let them know if you have any scars or what not on the pads of your fingers.
Being On Your Period At MEPS
If you’re unfortunate enough to be on your period during your time at MEPS, it’s not the end of the world. I was one of the unlucky ones, and I made it through just fine. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but you can still wear your normal sanitary products. I highly recommend using a menstrual cup, but obviously it’s up to you.
Sadly you can’t bring pills like Motrin or ibuprofen into the MEPS, so take your medicine at the hotel before you leave if you suffer from cramps or migraines. And if you find yourself needing to change your products, bathrooms are available for you to do that.
Make sure to tell the physician that you’re on your period when you get the physical exam. They need to be made aware that you’re wearing feminine products so they don’t think anything abnormal is going on down there. We like to think they won’t be judgy, but when I told my doctor I was wearing a menstrual cup, she had no idea what I was talking about. I explained the concept to her, and she said, and I quote, “ew, gross.” That was fun.
Picking Your Job
If you make it through all of the exams, they’ll sign off on your paperwork and send you to your branch liaison. For every branch other than the Marine Corps, this is the part where you pick your job. The liaison will go through what you’re qualified for, what jobs are open, and you’ll have to pick one or just not enlist that day. Marine poolees will go through this process with their recruiter back home.
Once the job selection process is completed, you’ll wait for the swear-in ceremony to start. You’ll sign some papers, then you and a bunch of other potential recruits will stand in a formation – don’t worry, they’ll teach you all the movements you need to know. The commander will go up front, everyone raises their right hand, and the commander will read the Oath of Enlistment. The group will repeat the words every sentence or two.
Once that’s done, you’re officially unofficially enlisted! It’s not actually binding until the second time you do it – that’ll be done when you’re ready to leave for recruit training. After your first round of MEPS, you’ll head back home until it’s time to ship out. At this point you’re in what’s known as the Delayed Entry Program, or DEP. If at any time in the DEP you decide the military isn’t right for you, you can back out without penalty. Your recruiter will try as hard as possible to get you to stay, but legally they can’t make you do anything.
Then, when you’re ready to leave for basic training, you’ll do it all over again! Well, you won’t have to do the ASVAB and other computer tests, but the medical process is pretty much the same. The Oath of Enlistment and papers you sign will be binding this time, so make sure that you’re all in on enlisting in the military. Congratulations on making such a monumental decision!
Well, as promised, this is one of the most in-depth guides to MEPS on the internet. Hopefully you found it helpful, and if you have any outstanding questions, ask them in the forum!Share this: