Complications of Joining the U.S. Navy

Speaking solely from experience, I went through the process of joining the Navy back in 2014. I’m an American, raised and born in California. I remember I had been out of school for two years, since I graduated in June of 2012. I had gone to speak with a recruiter (I won’t disclose the location, due to the sensitive nature of the military). But let’s just say I live in Southern California.

Anyways, I remember going in to speak with the recruiter. I drove down there, waited for about 20 minutes since he was the only one in the office, and he was wrapping up some paper work for a recruit who was about to ship out to Boot Camp.

When the recruiter got to me, he asked the standard questions: “Have you ever done drugs? Have you ever gotten a ticket? Do you travel outside of the U.S.?” Of course, I was a pretty easy recruit since I had yet to travel up to that point. So the process of entry was simple enough.

After this, things went downhill.

Let me reiterate this statement above. I had passed the ASVAB at Meps (ASVAB being the test every recruit needs to take upon filling out the basic paperwork, and Meps being the “Military Entrance Processing Station” you go to). I got a 76 on the ASVAB.

The issue lies within the medical process of Meps itself.

Disregarding the fact that I only was able to get about 3 hours of sleep (because, let’s face it, anyone in their right mind would be at least a little antsy). And also, disregard the fact that my roommate and I spent the majority of our time talking through the night about our aspirations and what are ultimate goals were. If you were to look passed all of that, the actual medical examination itself took about 6-7 hours long.

We got on the shuttle bus (which took us from our hotel to Meps), and were dropped off in silence. Nobody was awake enough to want to speak, except for the occasional word or two.

Upon waiting in organized “military-style” lines (falling into rank), we were led through the sliding doors of Meps, and were given an introduction class which took about 45 minutes.

After this, my time at Meps moved extraordinarily slow. It was painstaking, but I knew it would be worth the wait.

Or so I thought.

Fast-foward to near the end of the medical examination. I had gone through each testing station successfully, and quite frankly, with flying colors. But the one, and I mean one issue that stopped me from being allowed to join the Navy, was due to an acne medical waiver.

What’s a medical “waiver” you may be asking yourself?

A waiver is essentially any reason the doctors at Megs might find with disqualifying a potential recruit. So in essence, I received this medical waiver due to the fact that my acne (both on my face, and a couple on my body) was deemed bad. Back then, I had small break outs. Nowadays, I have clear skin, but back then (like any other normal teenager) I had a problem with acne.

So that is exactly why I was never allowed to join the Navy. My recruiter was even stunned at the results, he told me that the Navy was a bit on the full-side, so the doctors were likely trying to find any little reason to disqualify recruits. 

I remember two years later, when my acne cleared up completely, my recruiter asked me if I wanted to try again, to which I aptly and courteously said “no”. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after that initial experience at Meps. It felt ethically wrong on my part to try again, when I knew full well that I had nothing wrong with me two years prior. After all, I have all my limbs, I passed every other test, and I was prepared to serve my country. But to be stopped for a silly “acne waiver” really rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like the system was working against not only me, but countless other people. People who were, or still are, passionate about protecting their country.

After that moment, I understood how it felt to be excluded from being a part of an organization/group. It was an eye-opening moment, and one I hope you never have to experience. I still remember the thoughts I had when I initially found out I was being disqualified for my acne. I felt like something was inherently wrong with me, not just my body, but me as a person. The whole situation is silly to me now, but back then, I felt useless and as if I were merely just wasting space there at Meps. For me, the experience I received at that particular Meps station I went to, was less than respectable. It was degrading.

But I’ve come to forgive that event. It was all out of my hands, and the situation was up to the doctor who had given me a physical examination. If I could go back, I wouldn’t. For the simple fact that I would have been a different person, and I wouldn’t be working on the true work that I know will one day change the world for the better. Even if it’s small.

Forever in Your Debt,

          R.S. Noel

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