24 June 2011

Becoming a Future Soldier in the United States Army

2. MEPS approval of prescreen
3. Physical examination at MEPS Medical
4. Job selection
5. Pre-enlistment interview
6. Swear-in
7. Begin DEP
9. End DEP, ship to boot camp


Hurry Up and Wait
The doctors at the Military Entrance Processing Station use a serial profiling system known as the PULHES factor to evaluate an applicant's readiness for the military. Respectively, the criteria are physical stamina, the upper extremities, the lower extremities, hearing, eyesight, and psychiatric. The scores range from a 1 to a 5, with 1 being the best possible outcome. Last week, on 15 Jun., I had my first experience with the doctors at MEPS Medical.

For us applicants, the day began with a wake-up call at 0330. Breakfast was served at 0400, and the bus left for MEPS at 0445. Females checked in first. After checking in at the liaison office, we were sent to Medical  down the hall and waited outside until the door opened at 0530. There, we underwent the first of a series of interesting tests. And lucky for us, we were only 37 in total, so the day would go by relatively quicker than most.

We entered a booth and sat on stools facing the wall. The man running the test had us put on headphones and instructed us to press a button clicker each time we heard a sound. The sounds were faint and of varying frequencies.

We were pushed into another room and tested for color vision (being able to read a colored number inside of a bubble of a different color) and visual acuity. The latter portion of testing was difficult for me.

From there, everyone was directed to a briefing room and, one by one, was tested for blood pressure, pulse, and alcohol intoxication through a breathalyzer. Urinalysis followed (for marijuana detection) before we had our blood drawn for blood-borne disease. Finally, our heights and weights were taken.

Upper and Lower
After arguably the longest wait in the whole day, the males began testing in the male ortho room. Everyone was instructed to strip down to their skivvies and enjoyed a personal, behind-closed-doors consultation with the doctor. And I won't say any more about that. Afterward, the chief medical officer (CMO) emerged from his room and had us perform several movements testing the mobility, range of motion, and integrity of our limbs and joints.

My Talk with the Doctor
I was in the room with the doctor when he was writing down comments on my overall PULHES profile. He is a very amiable man with a great sense of humor and who, like all good doctors, did not make me feel uncomfortable. Overall, I felt the testing had gone well, with a few obvious setbacks- namely, my eyes and shoulder. I was curious to know my PULHES scores for those two areas. And while I was confident that I had made it, I just had to reaffirm my feelings and asked the doctor.

"Are my U and E scores a 2?"

Doctor Oswin turned to me. "They are a 3. That is disqualifying."

I was not making eye contact with him. I was giving myself time for the reality of my situation to sink in when he asked me to look up at him.

"So you're disqualified. Tough."

I was trying to smile but could not.

And after a long pause, he spoke again: "And not so tough."

Doctor Oswin picked up a stamp with the words "Waiver Recommended" on it and asked me, "How would you like me stamping this onto your paper?"

"I would love that, Sir."


"Waiver Recommended"
"This candidate is a vigorous, well-muscled, personable, intelligent young man with the right 'stuff' for the military. Waiver recommended."

That was Doctor Oswin's comment on his overall assessment of my qualifications for service. I'd forgotten the great compassion that doctors are capable of. His recommendation for a waiver spurred me on with new hope.

"Thank you very much, Doctor. I hope you have a good day."

"I am, and you're part of it."

I was taken to the CMO's room, where he signed off on my papers.
"Do you know what my chances might be of my waiver getting approved?"

"I'd say 75, 80 percent."

With that, I was sent back to the medical control desk, then to the front control desk, and then back to the liaison office where the service liaison told me that he would send my waiver request electronically up to USAREC (U.S. Army Recruiting Command) at Fort Knox for approval.


This past Monday, 20 Jun., I received a phone call at 1317 from my recruiter.

"Guess what? Your waiver has been approved."

At the recruiting station, SGT showed me the email.

"WF Result:Approve
Comment:Waiver is approved.

The enclosed request for medical waiver has been reviewed and is approved."

My PULHES profile was changed from 131131 to 111121. I was good to go.

Yesterday (Wednesday, 22 Jun.), I made another trip to MEPS to have my waiver signed at the CMO's office. Then, another walk back to the liaison office. I handed my packet to the liaison. He went through my papers and looked up at me.

"Son, what do you want to do in the Army?"

The job that I wanted, 35 Papa, Cryptologic Linguist, was not, according to the liaison, available in the coming months, but he had me sit outside in the waiting room and told me he would see what he could do.


Job Selection
2 movies later (Black Hawk Down and Gladiator), I was called back into the office to sit with a different liaison. He had managed to reserve 35 Papa for me and walked me through the job selection process.

It was decided. I would contract with the rank of E-4 (Specialist, SPC) as a 35 Papa for an enlistment term of 8 years and a signing bonus of $17,000 pending an FBI background investigation and DLAB test results. My ship date is 11 Oct. 2011.


Swearing In
By this time, 3 of us had completed our job selections and were taken to the briefing room, which was adjacent to the ceremony room. We were taught parade rest and attention and how the oath of enlistment ceremony would go.

Captain Kirk entered and took us into the ceremony room.

"At this time, is anyone feeling any reluctance about serving in the United States Armed Forces?" he asked.

No one answered; silence means "yes". With that, he asked us to repeat after him the oath of enlistment.

"I, Martin Bernardino, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

On 22 Jun. 2011, at 1455, I swore into the U.S. Army.


After starting this whole process 9 months ago, I have officially survived MEPS (which was a pleasant experience, for me at least) and depped into the U.S. Army. For the next few months, I will be attending PT sessions and briefings at the recruiting station to prepare me for basic at Fort Jackson.

I will continue working until the end of August. I will spend all of September at home with family and friends before leaving this October. It's been a long time coming, but I am officially a proud member of the United States Army.


  1. Thanks Bro! I'm glad I'm through the worst of it.. Training time!

  2. Just swore in today 35 Papa, leaving for Fort jackson on the 11th as well!!

  3. Congratulations, FS! I hope your prep's been going well & that you're assigned a language you'll enjoy! Best of luck!