Q&A: What Happens at Military Entrance Processing Stations?

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If you are considering joining the U.S. military, the enlistment process includes Military Entrance Processing Stations, or MEPSs. Understanding what to expect during MEPS can help you prepare for the trip and enhance your MEPS experience. Throughout the process, the military will determine if you are ready to join a branch of the armed forces. In this article, we discuss the steps of the MEPS and provide tips to help you prepare for and begin your enlistment in the military.

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MEPS is the process by which individuals are assessed for their qualifications to enter a branch of the United States Armed Forces. The Department of Defense operates MEPS facilities with the assistance of military and civilian personnel who specialize in determining an applicant’s physical, mental and moral readiness to enter the military. Performing a MEPS screening typically takes two full days of testing and screening. The MEPS process includes a medical examination, aptitude test and enrollment in the appropriate military branch.

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Prepare for the MEPS

During your stay at MEPS, you will undergo extensive testing and screening. Taking the time to gather your medical records and identification documents and discussing your family’s medical history in advance will help you prepare for the MEPS. Gather any medical documents you need to share with military medical personnel, such as childhood medical issues, and take glasses or contacts and the prescription if you wear them. You will need to bring your social security card, your birth certificate and your driving license. Other tips recommended by the U.S. military for preparing for the MEPS include:

  • Remove piercings; they can interfere with the hearing test and physical examination.
  • Wear clean, comfortable underwear and outerwear.
  • Make sure all clothing is free from profanity and offensive images or words.
  • Do not wear a hat inside the MEPS.
  • Get a good night’s sleep to help you mentally prepare for the aptitude test.
  • Shower before your test day.
  • Do not bring excess jewelry, watches, headphones, cash, or valuables.
  • Consult your recruiter for a list of recommended personal items to bring to basic training.
  • Show up on time as it is the first day of your military career.

Overview of the typical MEPS process

The military entry process begins before arriving at MEPS with a pre-screening conducted by a recruiter. Upon arrival at MEPS, candidates take an aptitude and physical exam to determine military readiness. Candidates who pass the exams enroll in the branch of the armed forces of their choice at MEPS and undergo basic training. Here’s what to expect in the MEPS process:

  • Preselection
  • ASVAB test
  • Accommodation at the MEPS hotel
  • Medical assessment
  • Job selection
  • Enrollment

Preselection

The first step in entering the military is a pre-selection before leaving for MEPS. Your recruiter will administer this medical background check and submit it to MEPS medical staff. This gives the military medical team the ability to review your history and request additional medical records for the MEPS exam. This allows for a complete and accurate medical assessment at MEPS. Medical conditions requiring additional documentation may include:

  • Most surgeries: Obtain hospital records detailing exactly the medical procedures you received.

  • Biopsies of a tumor or lump: Submit a tissue report covering the biopsy results with your pre-screening information.

  • Any hospitalization: Include records of hospitalization, operations undertaken and final diagnosis.

  • Diagnosis of asthma: If you have had asthma for more than 13 years, reports from an asthma specialist are required.

  • Skin diseases: Submit medical records for any skin conditions in addition to acne or athlete’s foot.

  • Severe allergies: Obtain diagnostic records from your allergist and submit them along with pre-screening.

  • Heart disease: Submit cardiovascular reports, including history of high blood pressure, aneurysms, coronary artery disease, and cardiac arrhythmias.

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADHD): Get a detailed diagnosis from your doctor and submit it with the screening.

ASVAB test

Upon arrival at MEPS, you will begin by taking the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Computerized Battery Test, if not yet completed. If you took the ASVAB test within 24 months of joining MEPS and achieved a qualifying score, you do not need to retake the test. The ASVAB is used to determine aptitudes in various fields and the career path in the military that is right for you. The test consists of 10 short questionnaires to be completed in three hours.

Subjects covered by the test include science, math, vocabulary, reading comprehension, coding, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. The maximum possible score on the ASVAB is 99, a minimum score of 31 is required for enlistment in the Army, 32 for enlistment in the Marine Corps, 35 for enlistment in the Navy, 36 for enlist in the Air Force and 40 to enlist in the Coast Guard. The ASVAB will also report line scores which will help determine which Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) you qualify for.

Accommodation at the MEPS hotel

MEPS locations are divided into 12 battalion regions across the country. If you have to travel far to attend MEPS, the military will pay for your hotel stay and meals. You will likely be required to share a room with another candidate and you will need to show respect to them and hotel property. The military may require candidates to sign a code of conduct contract and they must comply with the rules to continue in the MEPS process.

Medical assessment

Physical exams are essential to ensure that everyone entering the military is in good health. All military personnel must be physically able to withstand the challenges of basic training and active service. This is where applicants will review the screening and their medical history with the doctor.

The candidate will be asked to remove their outer clothing for parts of the exam and to undergo height and weight measurements; hearing and visual examinations; urine, blood, drug and alcohol tests; flexibility exercises to determine range of motion and any other specialized tests that the medical team deems necessary. Women must undergo a pregnancy test and will be accompanied by an attendant when they need to undress.

Job selection

The last step of MEPS before becoming an enlisted service member is to choose a military branch and occupational specialty. As an active member of the United States Army, you can serve in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard. Before attending MEPS, make sure you have discussed your options with your recruiter so that you are ready to select a job with MEPS. Some service specializations include communications, engineering, and translation.

Think about your strengths and passion before attending MEPS so that you can discuss these specialties with MEPS representatives. The current needs and policies of the line of service you choose determine the length of the job selection process and may not result in guaranteed employment at this point.

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Enrollment

Applicants who pass the physical and aptitude tests will meet with a service liaison advisor to review job postings and the enrollment agreement. Be sure to read the Active Service Enrollment Agreement carefully, as you will be bound by these terms, rank and position once you are sworn in. Before taking the oath, you will meet with a MEPS investigator to complete final information forms and review military codes of conduct.

A representative from MEPS will brief you on the Army Separation Policy, which allows the military to terminate an enlistment contract for unacceptable conduct. After you have signed all of the appropriate forms, you are ready to take the Oath of Active Service and become an Active Member of the United States Military. Once you become an active member of the military, you will go through basic training, likely in a group with other members of your MEPS program.

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