I came home yesterday, packed my bag, verified the time I had to check into the hotel, and set off. I stopped at Safeway to grab some cash [I thought I might go out that night - HA!], fill up the tank, and grabbed some Subway to eat on the go. I hit traffic once I hit the outskirts of Denver, naturally, and I had to go to the bathroom. Painful! It makes me happy that I don't live in a densely populated area anymore.
I finally pulled up to our hotel, a swanky Sheraton right in downtown Denver. Even though I had already eaten my dinner, I gladly accepted my dinner coupon so I could enjoy their fancy food. I dropped my stuff in the room and came back down to eat, knowing that it was almost bedtime. At dinner I was joined by two other applicants. I had found out at the desk that I wouldn't be alone [I had been told that earlier in the day], but that I had five other Marine recruits with me. I opted for something light, since I'd already eaten, and we even had a cupcake for dessert!
The unsolicited advice has already begun, let me tell you. We were approached at dinner by an employee who begun to tell us about his military service, ask us what we were going into, etc. At one point he told us that he never wanted to come home if he was "badly maimed," that he wished to be left to die. He mentioned all of those who come home with traumatic brain injuries and then proceeded to mimic someone with a disability. It was bad, let me tell you. Talk about not knowing your audience - who's to say that one of the guys with me didn't have a sibling or a relative with a disability. Luckily, he finally went away.
I went to bed shortly after dinner at 2130, since free wifi wasn't available. I woke up a few times during the night, most memorably at 0142 when my stomach was hurting. I knew I couldn't take anything, because I didn't want anything to be in my system. With my alarm set for 0315, I got out of bed at 0312 when I stirred. The hotel sure didn't want you to miss anything - I had two wake-up calls and the alarm in the room went off. I got dressed in denim trousers, polo shirt, and my P.F. Flyers. Trinnie would've been proud of me, as I put on a full face of makeup that early in the morning. :)
I went down to breakfast and finally saw the rest of the applicants. We were able to order off the regular breakfast menu, since there were so few of us. I was already getting anxious and my stomach wasn't totally settled, so I went for something "safe" that wouldn't upset me.
We boarded the van to head over to MEPS and I was still unsettled. Finally, when we got off the van into the cold morning air, I felt better. We walked in the back of the building, through a loading dock area, lead by a soldier. It was nice to encounter a friendly face in foliage green. We took the elevator up to our floor, where we dropped off our belongings. There wasn't going to be any Air Force liaison present, so my name tag was waiting for me behind the control desk. While the rest of the applicants waited, I was sent down the hall.
It seemed endless, every room marked out front with a hanging sign. Go down the hall to the left, where someone will stop you. My hearing test was first, and I was put into a metal box [for lack of better words] and I sat. And sat. Until the technician finally said we'd proceed without waiting for the rest of them. I was thankful, as I was nervous enough, and it was only made worse by the fact that I felt like I was sitting in a paddy wagon, with chairs up against the walls. I felt a little trigger happy during the test - better to hit the button when I thought I heard a sound, than to hesitate.
Afterwards my blood pressure was taken, and then I did a vision test. That was an experience, let me tell you. I did a red/green colorblind test, and then did a depth perception test. The depth perception was odd. I really felt unsure of myself during that one, since I had to tell the technician which circle was most pronounced out of five. Luckily, she let me stop before I was all the way done and told me that I had passed.
We went to a medical briefing next, where we all gathered in a room for the first of many PowerPoints in our military careers. While we were sitting and waiting, an employee (in civilian clothes) wandered in. He addressed the other five applicants [yes, everyone but me], since they were all trying to become officers in the Marine Corps. He was an NCO in the Army, and proceeded to offer all sorts of unsolicited advice and knowledge. The kicker? He went as far as to make the claim that the issue/challenge they'll find is that because the military doesn't require college education from its enlisted members, they subsequently don't know how to write, which is necessary for briefs and counseling statements. Nothing like a sweeping generalization to welcome us into the military! Thanks for perpetuating stereotypes, chubby soldier! Nevermind the fact that I, the person you're ignoring over here in the corner, is the only one going enlisted and has the most education out of all of these folks - probably put together! I was good though, I didn't say anything, although I did comment to my fellow applicants later. We were all joking that our luck was horrible, getting these folks that wanted to talk to us and who wouldn't shut up.
The briefing was your typical scare-fest - don't lie on your papers, we'll let you know if you have HIV by phone, if you think you're under the influence, say you're sick and go home. The others wrote scads of information on their files while I waited for us to proceed. Uh oh - I was starting to worry that I'd be grilled because I didn't write a novel.
We finally got out of that brief and got to take our urinalysis test, thankfully! I definitely had to go at this point. The bathrooms sandwiched the lab, and there were windows (with blinds) into the lab. We were instructed to pee in the stall, but leave the door open. Not an issue for me at that point, but the girl next to me asked if there was a recommended "technique" for this portion. I was glad to be on my way. Quick blood draw to check all of my goodies, and we were shuttled out to a waiting room.
We sat forever in this waiting room, with no reading material other than a couple of technical journals for MEPSCOM. I think we were all ready to fall asleep at this point. The men in our group were lucky, as they were being seen first while we waited. The doctor finally emerged and we were called in for our interviews. It was a lot less intimidating and scary than my recruiter made it out to be. He checked over my information, I told him about my glasses, and we chatted casually about the fact that I didn't have any tattoos or piercings. I was glad to get this part over with, after having it being so built up for me prior to going to MEPS.
All of the goodness came last - height/weight, what they call the "underwear olympics," and a breast exam/partial pap [genitalia check]. I was astonished to find out that the other two female applicants had never had a real annual women's exam. They were both 21 in age, which seemed really old to me, especially since I know how important prevention and early examination is. Naturally, one of the girls was really worried about this portion. I cut my teeth early, with my first pap at age 17 at a Planned Parenthood so I could get BCP. After that experience, it's really no big deal and I don't ever remember be afraid or dreading these visits. I was bullshitting with the doctor during the exam and I had he and the technician in stitches discussing some of my teaching stories. Gotta love being older for the fact that I'm still 20 pounds under my weight limit for the Air Force since the standards are more relaxed for me! I'm hoping to lose more weight, as I'm heavier than I've ever been.
The most awkward part for me was the underwear olympics. While being watched by the doctor and a technician, we performed a series of exercises in our bras and panties. We walked on our tippy-toes, on our heels, did squats, showed the range of motion in our hands, fingers, and feet, balanced on one leg, demonstrated our reflexes, and did the infamous duck walk. After doing squats and strength training a few days prior to MEPS, I definitely had to stand up during the squat portion to prepare and steady myself.
Lastly, we were called into the doctor's office again for the final review and check-off of our paperwork. The doctor had great things to say about me and my health, and had even asked if I was a runner because my heart rate/rhythm was low and steady. That's not the first time I've heard it, and you all know how much I work out [ha ha ha!]. I like to think I have a good inner peace that keeps my heart rate low. Stamp, stamp, sign, and it was official! I was medically cleared for military service! I received a copy of my forms on yellow paper [the document the recruiter is waiting on] and I was sent on my way! Because there were only six of us, I was out of there by 1000. Not bad at all!
I'm ecstatic to have had such an easy experience up at MEPS and I'm excited to move to the next step in my recruitment, although we've had some setbacks. It's been difficult for my recruiter to find a position for me that will allow me to do split training. Intelligence is out - they don't want to do split training. I'm ready to tell her to talk to everyone, regardless of the nature of the job, just so that I can evaluate my options thoroughly, rather than feel like I'm settling for the only department/position that will take me. I know I'm a competent worker and a fast learner, and I hope that I have the opportunity to interview and prove myself. Tomorrow I'm off to the recruiter so I can turn in my MS transcripts and my yellow forms. I'm not sure where we go from here, although I'm assuming after we find a job for me, my enlistment oath isn't far behind.