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Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS)

What Is MEPS?

The MEPS is the Military Entrance Processing Station and it’s no understatement to say that pretty much everything you want to do in the United States Military starts at the MEPS. Why? Because the MEPS determines an applicant’s physical, mental and moral standards (as established by each branch of the Armed Forces) and decides whether you and the military will make a good fit.

What To Expect At the MEPS

Yes it all happens during your trip to the MEPS for initial military processing, where you’ll be poked and prodded and asked a lot of questions and sign a lot of paperwork, and do a lot of waiting.

As much as the Armed Forces are screaming for recruits these days, the military is still a lot more competitive than before. The training is tougher both mentally and physically and the demands of both make military life a challenge. There’s no guarantee you’re not going to fall and break your head once you’re in the service. But if you’ve already been there and done that before you skip off to Basic Training the MEPS folks want to know about it.

To that end some medical conditions require official documentation: any surgery – especially any surgery performed on your back, spinal cord, knees and elbows. Any hospitalization for anything other then any surgeries just mentioned. Any history of asthma, heart conditions, allergies, skin, hepatitis and mononucleosis.

It is safe to say that if you have had surgery, you will need your medical records showing your good to go. Even if the civilian Dr’s clear you, that is no guarantee that the military ones will. The military Dr’s know the physical and mental conditions that will be headed you way and will make their decision on what is best for everyone.

On the right side of this page are the official MEPS medical screening regulations. If you have a condition and are wondering if you need a waiver for it.. take a look.

Your Visit To The MEPS

Like thousands of other young men and women before you, we’ll assume that you are healthy and motivated and you took your ASVAB and scored well. You have kept your nose clean for the last 17 or 18 years and life is good. For your efforts you have been given a date to go to the nearest MEPS site. You’re in the game now, baby! You’ll be briefed by your recruiter and expected to bring or do the following:

  1. Your Social Security card, birth certificate and driver’s license.
  2. If you wear either eyeglasses or contacts, bring them along with your prescription and lens case.
  3. Dress for the occasion: take a bath and wear under-garments. There are things you can NOT wear. Find out what they are and avoid them (Hint: tank tops are a no go)
  4. Get a good night’s sleep.
  5. Look on the right side of this page for more tips.

Inside The MEPS

Inside the building you will sit in chairs. Fill in the seats sequentially starting with row 1, seat 1. They will then section you off by branch to get an index finger print via touch pad scanner and name/ID sticker you will wear the entire time you’re at MEPS. Even the fingerprinting process is tough for some. Press firmly. Make sure your print is centered on the screen and straight up and down. There will be a red arrow in the top left corner to help direct you. You will have to do this at multiple stations throughout the day, so please don’t hold up the line.


You will also pick up a colored folder with all the paperwork you need for your physical. You will sit in a waiting room and then get briefed about the day. There is a slideshow and video. If you didn’t take the ASVAB yet you will be sent to do that before the physical. If already tested, you will begin you physical upstairs.

The Full Physical

About this time it’s 6:45am.

First thing is blood pressure and heart rate. This is pretty straight forward. If you’re nervous or the first one up the stairs and you’re out of breath they will send you to the back of the line to do it again.

Next room they look over your paper work, ask you to verify the information is correct. Check it! They print out barcodes and put them in your folder. Then they send you to hearing or vision testing.

Vision testing is different for each branch of service. I did the Navy test so here’s what you can expect. The first test is for color blindness. You have to state the number you see: {29, 10, 2}


Next is near/far vision testing. You will put your head in a machine and see various sized fonts. They will ask you to read the smallest line that you can without squinting/struggling. For my test, the bottom left most line was 20/20 vision. That should be your goal. Do not be a hero and try to read smaller than that unless you can with 100% accuracy and no fear of error.

Depth perception was the last vision test. You will see 6 sets of the following 3×5 matrix:


You will have to state which O appears to be standing out. Kind of like a hologram, one of them will be jumping out towards you. The amount of jumping out is relatively small. It won’t be obvious at first but take your time. I can’t reproduce this effect here, but you get the idea. Assuming they’re numbered in order from left to right; for the example above you would say, “Line 1 number 2, Line 2 number 4, Line 3 number 1.”

For depth perception test take your time! It’s not a race. A lot of people failed it because they rushed.


You will be in a sound proof booth with headphones and a Jeopardy style handheld clicker. When you hear a sound no matter how faint you click the buzzer. The entire test should take around 3 minutes total. You will hear sounds in your left ear first then your right ear. Setup the headphones in advance so that they fit snug on your head. The sounds have a very small interval of silence between them so you will be pressing the buzzer approximately every few seconds. Some of the sounds are very faint, if you think you hear it press it.


You will get a white paper form with orange print to fill out. Using a pencil you will bubble in your location on the back and fill out the front with your information and sign it. Follow the instructions from the proctor exactly. If he says don’t go ahead then don’t. If he says don’t open your folder then don’t. If you said yes to any of the questions you will have to write a brief explanation in pen on another form from your folder. For me I said yes to “Did you ever get fired from a job?” “Did you ever have 3 or more traffic tickets?”. I gave a brief explanation and it was not a big deal. Answer truthfully and consistently. One person got his folder confiscated and sent straight to his recruiter because he indicated something that wasn’t on another paper (presumably his pre-screen form from his recruiting station). You will fill out and verify information on more paperwork. Definitely check as my town was spelled wrong and my zip code was wrong. Make corrections then sign and date next to the correction.

You will be given a brand new plastic mouthpiece. Pro tip so you don’t get blue in the face: The open end faces you. The closed end faces the technician. Everyone in the 25 person group passed. You will answer questions about your medical history. This should match up with what your recruiter had you fill out. You should mostly or all “No” answers with the exception in section 14 “Are you currently in good health?” which should answer “Yes”. They will ask you if you took any medication or over the counter products in the last 48 hours. This includes protein shakes multi-vitamin. I put down protein shake and the person next to me put down multi-vitamin. Lastly they will brief you on what to expect next.


Make sure you drink a lot of fluids for breakfast and do not use the bathroom, you will need it to urinate. You will go in 6-8 at a time to the restroom. A technician will watch you urinate into a clear plastic cup marked 0 – 100 units. You must produce at least 60 units. Finish in the urinal when you’re done filling the cup. You will sign a form, throw out the cup, and wash your hands.

Blood test is next. They take one small vial of blood. Pretty straight forward. If you don’t like the look of blood or it makes you sick just look out the window.


You will get height and weight measured. If you are close or over the limit you will be “taped”, That includes getting measured by a tape around your neck and abdomen and referring to a chart to see if your within standards. Most people were average build so don’t be worried if you’re out of shape or not athletic build. Next is range of motion testing. It was surprisingly more thorough then anticipated. Try your best and follow directions. If they say to do something with force, then snap with quickness when you do it. Similar to a jab in boxing. These include range of motion exercises and the dreaded duck walk.

Lastly you will have a physical with a doctor. They will ask you questions about your medical history, marijuana and alcohol usage. I cannot tell you how to answer this. I never smoked marijuana or abused alcohol so it was easy on my conscience to answer truthfully. However you answer, make sure you’re consistent. Answer consistently with your explanations earlier in the day.

Picking Your Job

Depending on your ASVAB scores, medical qualifications, security screening and other factors you will be given an option to pick your job.

Each branch does their thing a little differently. For example, the Air Force lets you pick 7 or so jobs and then you get some notification later which one you got. You dont have any say in which one you get other than your top 7 choices. The Navy picks your job right then and there and thats what you got, no ifs ands or buts…

Marines are Marines and you dont get a guaranteed job, although you might get a field (such as avionics) in which you work, but no promise of a specific job. Marines are rifleman first. Even members of the Marine band have been known to be pulled to do combat patrols.

Lastly, the Army process. Be clear that no job in the military is guaranteed. If you are a cameraman and WW3 pops up and they need you to hold a gun.. your doing it. The phrase “I’m only a cook” wont get you far.


Your Oath of Enlistment will be the first of many, many successes you experience in the Untied States military. You’ll sign off on your enlistment contract and maybe snap a photo or two and then you’ll be getting ready for the next step in your new life: Basic Training.