The U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command
The United States Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) is responsible for ensuring applicants joining the active or reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard meet the standards outlined by the Department of Defense (DoD). The USMEPCOM organization is broken into two sectors, Eastern and Western.
The Eastern Sector contains six battalions overseeing 34 Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) and encompasses areas east of the Mississippi River and Puerto Rico.
The Western Sector contains six battalions overseeing 31 Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) and encompasses areas west of the Mississippi River including Alaska and Hawaii.
U.S. Military Aptitude Testing
Many people's first and only exposure to MEPS is in high school when they take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB is a series of nine tests in various subjects ranging from General Science to Mechanical Comprehension. The ASVAB is the same for all branches of the military, and the scores can transfer from one service to another. The ASVAB is not required for a commission as an officer.
The ASVAB has both a paper and a computer version. The paper version is offered at Mobile Examination Test (MET) sites and in high school. The computerized version (CAT-ASVAB) is offered at each of the MEPS.
When testing at the MEPS, only the CAT-ASVAB will be available unless you can provide documentation that demonstrates you suffer from color blindness¹.
The MEPS Physical
Before actually going to the MEPS for a physical, a recruiter will provide you with a medical prescreening form. For a majority of the "yes" answers you provide on the form, you will also need to provide the doctor and/or hospital treatment records and associated lab results.
The completed medical prescreening form and attached medical records must be forwarded to the MEPS Chief Medical Officer for review in order to gain permission to process. Once that permission is granted, then your recruiter can schedule you for your physical. The medical read performed should not take longer than a total of three working days unless additional records are requested.
If you are denied processing due to your medical history, then it may still be possible to process if the service you are applying to decides they may wish to consider a medical waiver. If denied processing by a service, you can try another. Waivers are strictly service specific.
The physical exam is a thorough head to toe examination. The physical consists of various tests and interviews. You will get a full eye exam to include color perception, a hearing test, and lab work. You will have your height and weight measured to ensure you meet the service requirements for which you are processing, and you will perform muscle and joint maneuvers to ensure adequate flexibility.
As with the medical prescreening, if you fail any portion of the physical itself, you may be eligible for waiver consideration, and again, it is up to the specific service whether they will entertain the issue that is out of DoD's standard.
Branch of Service Administrative Processing
After the physical is completed, you will return to your service liaison. Your service liaison will initiate the contract and any associated annexes that details the job, when your contract starts, and how long your service requirement will be.
Keep in mind that all contracts will entail an eight year obligation that is broken down into active duty and reserve obligations. For example, if you are receiving a commission in the Navy, your designator may require a five year active duty service obligation, the remaining three years of the eight total would be as a member of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Your recruiter can go into much more detail; ask!
Once the liaison has finished getting everything in order, you will go back to the MEPS to finish your processing. It is then that you will get fingerprinted and interviewed. It is the start of an in-depth background investigation that will reveal your history from simple traffic violations to even arrests that were later expunged. Ensure you are as honest as you can; you do not want something to come back during your investigation that you had previously left out. Each service has a conduct waiver procedure that is based on set DoD guidelines.
Once all is satisfactorily completed, then the contracts will be signed and you will take your oath of enlistment.
How to Request a Copy of MEPS Records
For applicants that wish to obtain a copy of the records about themselves maintained by the MEPS, a written request should be made to the Commander, U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command, ATTN: MEHR-PR (USMEPCOM FOIA/PA Officer), 2834 Green Bay Road, North Chicago, IL 60064-3094, or via email by using the MEPS "CONTACT" page. Be sure to include as a minimum, the full name, social security number, military status, or other information verifiable from the record itself; additionally, the written request must contain the applicant's signature.