Joining the military is a big step to take in life. It is not a decision that happens overnight, but the reward at the end makes it all worth it.
After going through an initial pre-screening interview with a recruiter and understanding enlistment options, the recruiter will set an appointment at the nearest Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Here, applicants will take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and be given a physical examination. If they pass, they swear in to join their branch of choice.
This calendar year alone, MEPS Phoenix has sworn in over 696 Marines. In recent months, however, the influx of those who aspire to join the Marines in Arizona has become a challenging task to manage due to the understaffed medical team at MEPS. This has led the Marine Recruiters and applicants to seek alternate MEPS outside the state of Arizona.
U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant. Miguel Orozcoluna, the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Recruiting Sub-Station West Phoenix, drove three applicants to MEPS San Diego on Oct. 23, 2023. Joseph Galarza, George Lopez, and Josemaria Martinez all took the 6-hour road trip to take the next step toward becoming Marines.
“I decided to take my applicants to San Diego because MEPS notified me that they would be short staffed,” said Orozcoluna. “I didn’t want to risk my guys being sent away and delaying their journey.”
Prior to submitting documentation to MEPS, recruiters ask applicants about their medical history to identify anything that could permanently or temporarily disqualify them for military service. Once the medical history has been gathered the information is submitted to the MEPS medical doctor for review. With a full medical staff, a MEPS medical team would typically process the information within 5-10 days.
However, now that all MEPS are using the electronic health information exchange to gather documents and that their medical sections are understaffed, the review of applicant’s medical history has significantly increased. Essentially, there has been an increase of medical documentation to process but no additional, and in some cases less, medical staff to support the increase.
If the applicant forgets to disclose something or MEPS runs out of appointment slots, they will be put on a hold status.
“This essentially means the applicants who already took time off work or school to take the first step towards enlistment are being told they have to wait anywhere up to 10 days to be processed,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Marko III, the operations officer for Recruiting Station Phoenix.
This change of appointment is called a hold-over, making the enlistment process more financially or educationally cumbersome for some applicants. In July 2023, RS Phoenix had 59 hold-overs.
These medical shortfalls are having an adverse effect on the overall recruiting mission across the state of Arizona. Whenever the process is prolonged, it prevents applicants from wanting to join, affects when they can go to boot camp, and decreases their chances of getting their job of choice.
“The shortfalls are lengthening the time to process,” said Orozcoluna. “This creates apathy amongst applicants and a false sense of hope when a process authorized happens only to get additional hits.”
Hits, in this process, are those missing pieces that cause the delays affecting processing time at MEPS.
Despite the challenges within the processing pipeline, applicants such as Galarza, Lopez, and Martinez have a strong determination become one of the few and proud.
“I’m 25 and I really wasn’t doing anything significant,” said Galarza. “I wanted more discipline, to have a career and be financially stable.”
Galarza says he feels joining the Marine Corps is a way he can show his family he can be independent. He hopes to go back to school to set him up for the future.
“For me, the Marines always stuck out, I needed to be a Marine,” said Galarza. “Now I’m in the process where my dreams are coming true.”
Lopez says the Marine Corps wasn’t initially on his radar. Reading David Goggins books made him begin researching his options.
“At first I wanted the physical challenge,” Lopez says. “Then it sort of transitioned to a desire for selfless service.”
Martinez has similar reasons. He says he was the only boy in his family and had protected them his whole life, so naturally he developed a desire to protect the country.
“I was working security then I got a phone call from a recruiter offering me the opportunity to be a part of something bigger,” Martinez said.
When asked why they wanted to go to the MEPS San Diego, all applicants had the same resounding answer, “It’s inconvenient, but at the end of the day [we] will do whatever is necessary to become a Marine.”
All three applicants swore into the Delayed Entry Program Oct. 24, 2023, a program in which they will train alongside their recruiters to prepare for boot camp.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about joining the Marine Corps, visit https://marines.com/RSPhoenix .
|Date Posted:||10.31.2023 22:16|
|Location:||PHOENIX, AZ, US|
|Hometown:||NOGALES, SON, MX|
|Hometown:||EL PASO, TX, US|
|Hometown:||PHOENIX, AZ, US|