Friday, March 24, 2017

Hurry up and wait...

If you've spent any time around military people, you have no doubt heard certain catchphrases.  "Hurry up and wait" is one of them.  Basically, it means you're expected to be on time, but you'll spend all day waiting.  It's a common phenomenon in anything having to do with the government.

Yesterday, in a Facebook group, I asked who among the veterans enjoyed their "MEPS" experience.  MEPS (military entrance processing station), for those who don't know, is pretty much the first step everyone who enlists in the military must take before they are on active duty.  It's definitely a "hurry up and wait" situation, too, according to my veteran friends.  It's time spent being tested, evaluated, examined, and finally sworn in before your ass gets hauled off to basic training.

Of course, I have never experienced MEPS.  I only read about it years ago when I purchased a book called Guide to Joining the Military by LTC Scott A. Ostrow.  I had no intention of joining the military.  I was just interested in the process.  I read Dr. Ostrow's book (he was still a Mr. when I read it) and reviewed it on  To my great delight, Dr. Ostrow exchanged a few emails with me.  Every once in awhile, I would hear from people whose products I reviewed, which was a pretty great feature of writing on Epinions, besides the extra pocket money I made there.

It was interesting to read the stories of the MEPS experience.  Some people said it was hell. Some said it wasn't so bad and that the MEPS people were nicer than anyone else they encountered in the early days of their service.

Bill didn't go to MEPS when he first joined the Army.  He went to a now defunct military junior college and earned a commission.  Then he went to American University and finished his degree in international relations.

A few years later, Bill decided to leave active duty.  He had several reasons for making that decision.  The first was that the early years of his career didn't go so well.  He lacked confidence and was serving at a time when the military was being reduced.  It looked like he wouldn't be promoted beyond Captain.

Another reason he left was because his ex wife wanted him to take a civilian job.  She wanted to settle in a small town and not have the military tell them where they'd be living all the time.  I suspect that she was also threatened by Bill's career and the power it gave him.

So Bill dropped out of the Army, but joined the Reserves.  He took crappy shift work at factories.  First, he worked at a toy factory in Arkansas.  It didn't pay shit and the hours were terrible. Then he got a job working for a Whirlpool factory supervising a line where guys made refrigerator doors all day.  It was boring work, but paid much better (and was less corrupt) than the toy factory.  Both factories have been closed for years.

After a few miserable years working in factories with his fancy American University degree and his failing marriage, Bill decided to rejoin the Army full time.  Well... what actually happened was that the Army National Guard had a couple of slots open for Title X soldiers.  Basically, it meant being a full time member of the Guard.  He was just like any other soldier, except he was paid by the National Guard instead of the regular Army.  While he was in the Reserves, Bill was promoted to Major, so he entered the Guard at that rank.

Ex was not happy that Bill decided to go back into the Army.  However, because he was in the Army, he made more money and got much better benefits.  As their marriage disintegrated, she took full advantage of the much better salary he was making.  When I met Bill, he had just gotten back into the military and was living on about $600 a month.  The rest of the money went to his ex wife, who squandered it.

As part of the process of going back into the Army full time, Bill had to go to a MEPS.  He said he was basically treated like he was 18 years old, even though he was in his 30s and a field grade officer at the time.  He finally had to point out to the staff that he was already in the Army and just needed to get some documentation done.  At that point, their demeanor changed.

From what I've heard, MEPS involves some humiliation as referenced in the picture below...

Of course, the dude in the picture wouldn't be talking to his mom right afterwards.  From what I understand, MEPS is basically the last step before you head off to basic, wherever that may be.

There are also lots of rules and regulations to follow.  Like, you can't go out and get loaded the night before.  If you're in a hotel room paid for by the government, you'll probably be sharing your room.  All your meals will be paid for, but any extras are on you.  That means no porn viewing on the government's dime.

Anyway... the prospect of MEPS is enough to scare me away from joining up, not that they'd want me in the military at my advanced age.  The Peace Corps medical exam was intense enough for me.  I have no desire to do it again.  But I am glad Bill went to MEPS where he hurried up and waited.  His time in the Army has been pretty good to me.  At least I get to see the world, right?  And now that he's retired, I don't have to worry about him going to a war zone anymore.

If you want to enlist, I recommend reading LTC Ostrow's handy guide.  Chances are, if you email him with questions, he'll respond.


  1. One of my cousins signed up right before his senior year of high school. He was considered to be in reserves his senior year of high school, and the time he spent before going to active duty was taken off his required four years of inactive duty at the end of his four-year active duty stint. he was driven to MEPS the summer before his senior year of high school by a recruiting officer. the night he arrived, he got to play video games and eat pizza. Then he was woken up at some ungodly hour for all the testing and unpleasantness. He had already taken the ASVAB.

    The ex probably also didn't like that she had no say about anything that happened with regard to the Lt. Col.'s job. She probably couldn't go on base and complain about anything, which probably really got to her.

    1. At my high school, most everyone took the ASVAB as a matter of course. I sure did.

      As for the Ex, you're right. She wanted complete control. She used to tell Bill how it was in the Army, although she was never in it.


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