When we last left this saga, I had finally decided to join the Army Reserves. Next up is the wonderful joy that is MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station).
Once I decided what I wanted to do, I had to go down to Salt Lake to make it effective. MEPS day is a wonderful day, and is actually two days (or possibly more; more on that later). I head down to the recruiting station the day before my actual appointment at MEPS. The Army, and the other services, are nice enough to put you up in a hotel the night before, seeing as how you have to be at MEPS when it opens at 0500. Many people are going to MEPS for the first and last times; they will be testing, qualifying and shipping off to active duty all in the same day. Others have been before and are back simply out to ship to basic training or advanced individual training. Others, like me, are there to enlist and ship later.
If you have ever read or heard about a MEPS experience, they are all pretty similar. If anything, the whole thing prepares you for a life in the military, what with hours and hours of “hurry up and wait.” The first thing that I had to do when I got to MEPS was take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) to see if I qualified to be a Legal Specialist. The ASVAB is a timed, multiply choice test in many different areas, and each of these areas determine what jobs you can do based on your scores. There are individual area scores, and each Army MOS has specific prerequisites that you must meet in order to have that MOS. For example, 27D, the MOS that is now Paralegal Specialist, the minimum ASVAB scores required is a 110 in the aptitude area of CL, which is Clerical. Don’t ask me how they actually test that. I never really learned my score, but I knew I passed and it was on to medical.
Now, the medical section of MEPS can be real time-consuming, especially if you need waivers for surgeries and pre-existing conditions. Luckily for me, I had never had surgery up to that point in my life and it was just an extensive physical for me. They drew blood, checked reflexes and flexibility, listened to your heart, and all sorts of other tests. They did a questionnaire about your medical history to see if there were things that required consultations, and that was that. I was moving along pretty good, considering everything, until I got to the dreaded urinalysis.
Not that I was going to fail the tet, mind you. But I have an issue with peeing in front of people, especially when they are watching you over your shoulder. I drank so much water I felt like I was going to die, and still the water works did not happen. They give you a few chances to provide a sample before they give you a “no go” at the station. Unfortunately, my MEPS experience would end that day because I got a little gun shy and could not provide a urine sample. I couldn’t finish in-processing and was still kind of in limbo when it came to the Army. My recruiter made another appointment for me to come back the next week and hopefully finish what I started.
When I met with my recruiter at around 0430 in the morning on August 7, 2000, the first thing he did was give me a liter of water and told me to drink it. I drank it during the 30 minute drive from the recruiting station to MEPS, signed in, and headed straight for the urinalysis section. I drank even more water and bided my time until I felt like I was really going to explode. Even then, however, I still had difficulty providing a sample. Luckily for me, the technician, the same one that had seen me the week before, took pity on me and let me use the stall for some privacy. I provided my sample and then proceeded to provide samples for the next seven guys in line as well (not really, but I still really had to pee!).
I was then able to sit down with the career counselor and officially select Legal Specialist as my MOS. I was given school dates for May of the next year, was placed in a unit, signed about 40 pieces of paper, and swore into the Army for the first time on August 7, 2000. After all that (and another trip to the bathrrom), SSG Nyman took me to my new unit and introduced me to the fine people of the HHSC, 172nd Medical Supply Battalion.
And that is where we will pick up this story next time…