What is MEPS?
Anyone wanting to join the U.S. military will be required to attend MEPS, an acronym for Military Entrance Processing Station. Once a new military recruit has initial meetings and pre-screenings with the recruiter, the recruiter will make an appointment for the recruit to visit the nearest MEPS.
The recruit will immediately go to basic training after completing MEPS and is not considered part of the military until they successfully complete it. The only exception is if the recruit goes into the delayed entry program (DEP), where they will go home after MEPS and wait to until a later date ship out to basic training. The recruiter should work to prepare the applicant for the MEPS experience.
MEPS is made up of 65 Department of Defense facilities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It is operated by the US Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) and staffed by civilians as well as service members of all branches.
The command’s slogan is Freedom’s Front Door, indicating that a service member’s career begins once they walk through the doors of MEPS.
What to Expect at MEPS?
MEPS is a gateway to the military. The primary goal of MEPS is to determine, under military regulations, policies, and federal law, whether a potential military member is qualified to serve in the United States Armed Forces, and if so, what jobs they may qualify for.
Because the military is physically and mentally challenging, recruits go through a screening process to ensure they can meet job demands without causing harm to themselves or others. This screening process tests recruits medically, physically, and morally.
Some people who enlist on active duty make two trips to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). The first trip is for the initial qualification determination and enlisting in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP). The second trip is usually for actually enlisting on active duty and going to basic training.
A day at MEPS can include 6 hours to 8 hours. Depending upon the recruit’s unique situation, the MEPS process can last up to 2 days. MEPS is a full day or several days of testing and screening, so be prepared to “hurry up and wait,” as we say in the military.
Getting Ready for MEPS
In preparation for MEPS, a potential service member should do the following:
- Discuss any childhood medical problems with your parents and bring documentation with you.
- Bring your Social Security card, birth certificate, and driver’s license.
- Remove all piercings.
- Profanity and offensive wording or pictures on clothing are not tolerated.
- Ditch their headgear. Hats are not permitted inside the MEPS.
- If you wear eyeglasses or contacts, bring them along with your prescription and lens case.
- Bathe or shower the night before your examination.
- Wear underclothes.
- Get a good night’s sleep before taking the ASVAB (military entrance test).
- Wear neat, moderate, comfortable clothing.
- Don’t bring stereo headphones, watches, jewelry, excessive cash, or any other valuables.
- Ask your recruiter for a list of recommended personal items to bring to basic training.
- Processing starts early at the MEPS. You must report on time.
Where Will I Stay if I Have to Travel to MEPS?
MEPS are divided into 12 battalion regions across the country. If a recruit has to travel far to MEPS or stay overnight, the government will cover the expenses of lodging and meals. Applicants may be required to share a room. Any incidentals such as telephone calls or non-complimentary bottles of water must be paid by the recruit.
The MEPS Process
The process at MEPS typically includes:
- Taking the ASVAB
- Taking a medical exam or physical
- Choosing a military occupation
- Swearing in and enlistment
Every military applicant is required to take the ASVAB at MEPS, the most known military entrance test. Some recruits take the ASVAB in high school, so they will not have to take it more than once. If the applicant has not taken the ASVAB prior to attending MEPS, they will complete the test before the medical exam.
The ASVAB measures one’s comprehension and ability in a broad range of career fields. Each service uses the ASVAB to see where and what jobs you would be a great fit for when joining the military. It’s basically an aptitude test that helps to gauge a potential service member’s job ability.
Worried about passing or failing? There’s good news. Test results are not based on a pass or fail basis, rather by scores or point levels.
Even though the ASVAB is offered as a pencil and paper test, it is computerized at every MEPS. The computer test is known as the CAT-ASVAB. The best part about the CAT-ASVAB is that it can be taken at the recruit’s own pace. Meaning, the potential service member can move on from section to section without waiting for anyone else.
Keep in mind, each service branch has its own standards and education requirements when it comes to testing.
The maximum possible score anyone can make on the ASVAB is 99. Want to know testing requirements for each branch? Check out the military entrance test article for quick reference.
The Medical Exam
Physical examinations are vitally important because everyone entering the armed forces must be in good health to endure the challenges of basic training and military service. Any physical disqualifications that appear during the MEPS physical exam may bar an individual entry into the military.
The physical examination consists of checking the vitals such as blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. Additionally, the medical exam includes:
- Height and weight measurements
- Hearing and vision examinations
- Urine and blood tests
- Drug and alcohol tests
- Muscle group and joint maneuvers, in underclothing (range of motion tests)
- Complete physical examination and interview
- Specialized test, if required (an EKG, for example)
Many conditions can be waived with the appropriate documentation. This is why medical documentation is important.
It is important to keep in mind, the physical fitness test is not conducted at MEPS. MEPs is used for medical, mental, and agility testing.
Special Consideration for Women at MEPS
At MEPS, women will be given a drape or gown during their physical. Their visit with a physician will be in a private room. Underwear is required during the physical.
Women must also submit to a pregnancy test and will be accompanied by a woman attendant when required to remove their clothing.
Choosing a Military Occupation
The last step at MEPS is choosing a job specialty. Before leaving for MEPS, most recruiters will have reviewed the applicant’s job options, so he or she is prepared to select a job at MEPS. Service specialties range from infantry to communications.
As always, the current needs and policies of the military will determine the job selection process and may not result in a guaranteed job.
Swearing in and Enlistment
Candidates who successfully meet the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) standards of the respective branch of service, a service liaison counselor will discuss job opportunities and the enlistment agreement. Service liaison counselors will explain each program and answer any questions.
Before swearing in and taking the oath of enlistment, a final interview, fingerprinting for an FBI check and pre-enlistment briefing will be completed. These pre-enlistment briefings include the military separation policy and pre-oath briefing. Afterwards, the oath is administered.
Family members are welcome to attend the enlistment ceremony and watch their new service member take the oath. The family may take photographs of the new military member along with the military officer who gives the oath.
For those who are entering the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) or not enlisting at this time, transportation back home will be arranged by the recruiter. Anyone going straight into active duty will receive instructions on transportation arrangements to basic training.
What if Someone Changes Their Mind About Going to MEPS?
It’s understandable that some people have cold feet after getting their MEPS appointment date and time. Some recruits decide this is not for them, so they look for ways on how to get out of the military.
Depending on the situation, not showing up to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) does not have many consequences, except that it puts a strain on the relationship between the recruiter and the potential service member.
Do You Have What it Takes to Join the Military?
Before signing or agreeing to any obligation, recruits should ensure this is what they really want. Joining the military is a huge commitment and MEPS will be a significant process of joining the military. It basically says you have what it takes to be in the military.
If being a member of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard or Space Force is your chosen career path, be sure to rely on your recruiter and bookmark the Empire Resume Military Blog to help you get you to where you want to be in the service.
Take time to prepare for MEPS just as you would prepare for a test or any other type of training. Get plenty of rest – you’ll be waking up extremely early. Make sure your clothing is warm and comfortable. Be ready to follow tons of instructions. And finally, bring a book or something to keep you occupied. There will be plenty of waiting. Just like you prepare for MEPS, you’ll want to prepare for training.
Unfortunately, the military life does not last forever. When your time has come to change careers and you need help making the military-to-civilian transition into the working world, look no further than Empire Resume.
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Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.