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It's Off to MEPS We Go!
A Firsthand Account of a Visit to New Orleans MEPS, by Dave W. Brown

Page 2, Continued from Page 1
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MEPS at a Glance

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It's Off to MEPS We Go!

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What the Recruiter Never Told You
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My recruiter gave me instructions to take my own car to MEPS, so that I could leave when I finished. In her words, "There's always somebody with a bizarre problem that takes forever."

When I saw the bus arrive, I told the driver I'd be following him. "Sure thing, but when we get there, I make a left turn, you go straight. I'll be taking the back entrance. You will need to check your car in."

I tracked down my car in the parking lot, and exited. The tollbooth was closed, so my overnight parking was free. I waited near the bus, and when it departed, I followed.

The drive was quiet (as are most roads at 4:45 AM in the rain). Within 30 minutes were were at the New Orleans MEPS facility / Naval Support Academy. My check-in was smooth. There were guards at the gate, who looked at my driver's license and pointed me to a building where I'd need to get a pass. Inside of the said building was a man who needed my license, registration, and proof-of-insurance. I supplied them, signed a form, and went on my way. He directed me: "take the right past this building, go straight until you can't go anymore and go right. The parking lot and MEPS entrance is there."

His directions were precise.

The New Orleans MEPS is located in one of the most historic and picturesque cities in the United States. It is a tenant command of the Naval Support Activity (NSA), New Orleans. NSA is divided in half by the Mississippi River to form NSA West Bank and NSA East Bank in the F. Edward Hebert Complex, Building 603, Section 1-C., First Floor, 4400 Dauphine Street. The MEPS has called this home since April 1976. The MEPS is assigned military and civilian personnel, who process up to 150 applicants each day for the Armed Forces. Official DOD Photo.

What followed was straight out of a movie. The bus was unloading in two straight lines (one of which I joined) under an awning outside of the facility. It was still very dark, thunder rumbling overhead, rain coming down.

Three men in BDUs holding flashlights walked down the lines examining our clothing. One of them men announced, "Is anybody carrying any guns, knives, or drugs?"

No response from the terrified audience.

"Set down your bags and unzip them!"

The men then waved "airport security wands" over our baggage. No incidents.

"When we enter the MEPS facility, you will be divided up by branch and sent to your liaison! Store your bags in the marked closet!"

The entrance reminded me of an airport terminal. There were several rows of seating, a long desk, and lots or uniformed personnel moving to and fro.

"Air Force here, Marine Corps here, Army here and Navy here!" announced another, pointing out the different offices.

I stored my backpack and headed for the Air Force liaison with fellow future-Airmen. Upon entrance, a line formed, where our packets were collected and our names were called. We were given nametags to put on our shirts, and sent to another line at the "Control Desk" in the main lobby we entered from. This line was quite long and slowly moving. Along the wall were photographs of the chain of command and prominent military leadership. At the front of the pack was Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld and Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush. I am proud to serve under these men.

Soon, I was at the front of the line and was handed a gray folder filled with forms and documentation. I was instructed to enter Room #1 down the hall on my left. There was a large sign pointing my way, and opening the door revealed a classroom filled to capacity. The last handful of people entered and took seats, and a tall man in camouflage entered and stepped behind the podium.

"Good morning. I am _________. Welcome to the New Orleans MEPS." He then proceeded to cover the rules and regulations of the facility in detail. "There is a snack room with an arcade inside. It is there as a privilege. You are expected to keep it clean. If we find trash on the floor, it will be locked and your only snacks will consist of water from a fountain. Lunch will be served from 1000 to 1300. When you hear last call and you have not eaten, stop what you are doing and get your food. If you do not, you will not eat."

He also covered the no-slouch rule for the lobby. "There a places to sit in the lobby. Do not slouch. Do not fall asleep. There are 4 branches here. I can assure you that if a Marine catches you asleep, his response will be a lot different from anyone else's." There is no smoking in the facility, except for a picnic table outside the main doors. He advised anyone wearing "baggy pants" to secure a belt from their liaison ASAP. "Pants too low will not be tolerated."

He then covered Fraudulent Enlistment. "You will answer many questions and fill out many forms. If you lie to anyone or on anything, it will be considered Fraudulent Enlistment and you will be subject to two years in prison and dishonorable discharge. Do not do it."

The next person to enter the room was a funny lady wearing a pink nurse's outfit. She handed out pens. "Don't put these pens in your mouths." She then walked us through every question of the medical form. She also covered the Privacy Act. "Do not share any medical information with anyone here unless he is a doctor. Do not let anyone examine your records. If I catch you showing your paperwork to somebody else here, I will lean over and whisper 'You better stop that.' If a Marine catches you, he will scream very loudly at you and send you home. If someone warns you once, don't to it again. There are lots of people here, and you are always being watched."

One guy raised his hand. He had to go to the bathroom.

"No you aren't going to the bathroom. If you do, I'll be here all day waiting for a urine sample from you."

He had to go NOW.

The lady was exasperated. "Come with me." She then added, turning to the classroom, "Don't you do nothing wrong in here. I will not be responsible if people have to come mess with you."

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