Short Version: Call the Navy recruiting station, tell them you want to enlist, and just follow their instructions from there. If you are nice and compliant, you could be only a matter of weeks away from basic training.

Long Version

Before We Begin... Some Notes
  • This writeup is designed for one who is going to enlist in the United States Navy at the beginning of the twenty-first century, or one who wants to know what goes on during the process.
  • There is absolutely no intended underlying message in this writeup promoting the United States Navy, or the military. It is written with the intent of objectivity, not propaganda.
  • Medical conditions and what may or may not disqualify a person for service vary from branch to branch and even depend on the person's age, as well as from profession to profession. If they are of concern to you, please seek out a more medically comprehensive source of information.
  • This is written regarding the United States Navy, though much of it will apply to the other branches of the armed services. A certain (possibly critical) amount of it may not, however.
  • Those interested in the Navies of non-United States of America countries are not likely to find much specific information to help them on their quest, unless they're looking to become U.S. Citizens...
  • Why someone would want to join the U.S. Navy is beyond the scope of this writeup.

    Making First Contact
    Look in your local phone book, under Government Offices, the Federal Government specifically. Scan the listings until you see 'Navy' or 'United States Navy'. Do not call the first Navy phone number you run across, as they could be a Navy deployment that has nothing to do with recruiting. If you are in a larger town or city, there may be multiple Navy recruiting stations sprinkled around in strategic locations. If you see one that is near you geographically, then call that one. If you can't figure out how close they are from their address, just go ahead and call one of them.

    You will likely be answered by a Navy NCO such as a petty officer. They have a complex series of scripts that they have memorized in order to deal with the multitude of people that inevitably choose to seek out enlistment. Let them do their thing (they've spent hours and hours of class time practicing and preparing!), and give them good and accurate responses. You will be invited down to the recruiting station for more in-depth discussion and exposure to propaganda. You will be shown various videos on the Navy in general, jobs you might be interested in, or what it's like at boot camp/basic training. They will be trying to figure out what kind of a person you are, how likely you are to be able to enter the Navy, and what sorts of jobs you will be interested in and/or qualified for mentally/physically to perform.

    Things They Will Want to Know About You
    Some things that will come up are the status of your high school education. Have you graduated? If not, when will you? If not, do you have a GED? What kind of grades did you get? The Navy as it is at the beginning of the twenty-first century does not accept enlistees who have not graduated from high school. GED holders are at a disadvantage, and unless are special individuals, may be referred to the U.S. Army.

    At some point during the process, you will be asked a number of questions about your medical history from a sheet. This is where the recruiter will see if you have any absolutely disqualifying medical conditions, such as asthma. You will be asked to give follow up information on any major problems, even if they occurred years ago. It is possible that you have had disqualifying medical conditions in the past that are presently not a big deal, or that you have some visible medical condition that requires documentation from a doctor, testifying that you are fit. You will also need to meet a minimum height / weight balance. If you fail that, you will be asked to have a body fat reading taken. Your body fat rating will be taken using a somewhat controversial process using pinching instruments at various parts around your body.

    You may be asked to take an ASVAB (Armed services vocational aptitude battery) pre-test, which is designed to give YOU a heads up on what some of the test questions will be like, and give the recruiter an idea of where you stand in a number of academic disciplines. Help and tips on taking the ASVAB are beyond the scope of this writeup, though the level of question does not exceed that of the 'easy' variety of SAT questions. There is a greater diversity of subjects covered by the ASVAB, as well. If your ASVAB pre-test score is favorable, then you will receive advice from the recruiter on what classifications/jobs you would be qualified for.

    You will also be asked about your drug history. This is a difficult thing for some people, because they may have done a lot more drugs than the Navy considers acceptable. It is a bad thing to lie, but the Navy considers occasional or experimental use of light drugs in the (distant) past acceptable. If you haven't been in trouble with the police, then it is highly unlikely that the Navy will find out about your drug and alcohol habits.

    You will also have a criminal background check through the FBI. Felonies are an absolute no-no, and even unpaid parking tickets will put your enlistment in jeopardy. It is best not to lie about any involvement you've had with the police / justice system, since they keep records, and the Navy will check those records.

    Choosing Your Classification
    After you've gotten mostly cleared with the various housekeeping information to make sure you're not a drugged-up wanted felon who's a highschool dropout with a severe medical condition, you will start exploring just what you will be doing in the Navy.

    If you scored well on the ASVAB (and with an E2 user, that is a distinct possibility), you will not stop hearing about the Navy's Nuclear Power Program. The reason is this: The Navy has a shortage of qualified nuclear personnel, because it is such an intensely technical job. There are promises of extra enlistment bonuses, two years worth of training that can be used towards a number of technical associates degrees, re-enlistment bonuses, and a brand new red Ferarri (I'm joking about the Ferrari). They will also point out that 'nukes' are highly likely to find their way into officer training programs, such as NROTC, OCS, or even the Naval Academy (though one shouldn't count on getting them, and probably not to the academy).

    Some other classifications that a person may find stimulating are as follows:

    CT- The Crypto guys, specializing in intelligence gathering on the electronics/technical side and the organic language translator side.
    IS- Intelligence Specialist, responsible for gathering and interpreting intelligence information, creating presentations and reports and such.
    ET- Electronics Technician, responsible for keeping the electronics systems on a ship running smoothly. Fixes everything from monitor brightness dials on zero to the ship's electronic warfare suites. Supposedly has large amounts of free time to goof off in.

    There is a very excellent chance that the classification that you want is not available. You have two options; wait until the next classification period, when the classifications are again open, or select one of your second or third choices in case you do not get your first choice. You are now ready to enlist!

    Goings to MEPS
    Once you have everything together, your recruiter will have you sent to 'MEPS', a Military Entrance Processing Station. This is where you will be given a quick medical run-down, where you will select your classification, sign the papers, get fingerprinted, and finally sworn in.

    First off, you need to get to MEPS. Your airfare/busfare, your hotel, and (maybe) your food will be paid for by the Navy. You will be given instructions on where to go, who to talk to, and what to do. It is very important that you follow these instructions closely, else you might find yourself lost, or missing an important part of the MEPS process.

    You will have transportation provided to and from MEPS, probably by a petty officer in a government vehicle. You will arrive at the MEPS building, which is probably in the middle of an urban area, and will have to check in at the front desk. A MEPS is a multi-branch facility, so you will likely be interacting with recruits and NCOs from multiple branches of the military. After you have checked in, you will probably be doing one of two things; taking the ASVAB, or beginning your physical examination.

    If you are taking the ASVAB, you will possibly need to wait in line for a while (possibly several hours), so it is advised you bring a book with you. Czeano suggests that it is not a good idea to sleep, and the writer must concur. Once there is an opening in the test-taking room, you will be given some important instructions, and sent in to take the test at a computer terminal.

    Once you are finished, you will return to the front desk, and let them know you've finished. You are generally not told your score on the ASVAB, though it has been known to happen on occasion when the score is significantly high (for instance, a 99th percentile). At this point, it may be late in the day or evening, and physical qualifications will probably be the next day. You will be returned to your hotel, where you will have an opportunity to ingest some food (though if you are near the Navy's height-weight / bodyfat cutoff, you may want to skip the meal, it may save you a pound or two. If you're close to the edge, it may pay off). You will have been given a sheet of instructions, including curfew, lights out, etc. You should definitely get a good amount of rest for the day ahead. You may also have been placed with another prospective recruit as a room mate. They may have a different pickup schedule for the next day than you, so be sure that you know your OWN information on when to be dressed and ready to go in the hotel lobby.

    The Medical Examination
    After being taken to MEPS again, you and a group of other prospective recruits will be herded into a room to listen to a military medical-type talk to you. Probably one of the first things you will hear is that if you are currently inebriated/drunk or currently under the influence of drugs, then you would be allowed to leave right away without penalty. You will be told that if you fail the breathalyser test, or the later urinalysis, then you will not be allowed to return to MEPS for a very significant period of time, if not barred completely. Inevitably there are often one or two people who do choose to take this opportunity to quit the facility.

    The medical-type will then lead the group through the filling out of a number of medical forms. They say you should give full information on every 'yes' answer you give, including what doctor you saw and what hospital you went to (even if it happened when you were 3). Of course, you probably won't be able to complete all this information, which is fine. The only way this part of the process will trip you up is if you weren't completely forthcoming with the recruiter about some medical condition that could jeopardize your enlistment. You will then be administered a breathalyser test to see if you've got any booze on your breath.

    You will now complete a series of medical exams, which will test your hearing (they put you in a booth, and make you click a button whenever you hear a beep.), and eye exam (they make you look into a device and ask you to read lines, with both eyes, both with glasses and without. You don't need 20/20 vision, even 20/20 corrected, to enlist), along with a color blindness test. You will have a small amount of blood drawn with a needle, and you will also have a person keep an eye on you while you pee into a cup. Your visit to these 'easy' exams will likely culminate with a visit to an actual medical doctor (possibly a civilian) who will run through the same medical information you've been asked at least a dozen times, trying one last time to trip you up and make you admit you've got some condition you have not yet reported. After that, it's on to the group physical.

    You and the other prospective recruits will be segregated by gender, and sent to different rooms. You will be told to remove your clothing down to your underwear, and asked to sit down in a row along the wall. The doctor you saw earlier will come in, probably along with the military medical-type who led you through the filling out of forms, and will run the group through a series of physical exertions that test your range of motion and capabilities. You'll have to do stuff like walk on your heels, do the crab walk, balance on one foot, etc. After that, the doctor will go into a small room, and one-by-one, will see each prospective recruit individually. This is where your nether regions will be inspected: the doctor will be looking for hemerroids, and for anything wrong with your testicles (the female situation is different, but similarly intrusive).

    After all that is finished, you will be allowed to put your clothes back on. *phew*

    At this point, it will likely be around lunch time, so you may be provided with a (free!!!) meal before you go to see your individual branch classifiers.

    Selecting Your Job

    Important Tip!!: Be sure you read everything that is put in front of you. Most especially if you are asked to sign it. Don't worry about making the NCO bored, by reading through everything. Be sure and ask questions about ANYTHING you do not fully and completely understand. By doing so, you do NOT look stupid. In fact, by making it clear you intend to fully understand whatever they ask you to do, you will be impressing them that you are no pushover, making it less likely that they will try and pull a fast one on you. It doesn't happen as much nowadays, but in the past, military recruiters were notorious for their deceptions.

    You will wait your turn, and be called into the classifier (likely to be a Navy NCO). At this point, everything will be pretty much cleared up, and you can go right on to dicker over the course your life will take over the next several years. If you are lucky, then your first job choice will be available and you will be able to move on. If you aren't lucky, then your first choice is unavailable, and you will be shown similar jobs. These 'similar' jobs probably get farther and farther away from what you actually want to be doing, so it really is a good idea to go into MEPS with several options you can be happy with.

    The classifier may offer you some kind of 'special' program, in which you can do a kind of 'internship' with your selected profession, waiting until there is an open spot in that classification's A school (training school). Beware, this offer will come with catches. You will likely be assigned various un-fun jobs around whatever ship you're assigned to. You will be a sailor without a classification... without primary training. Think 'worst case scenario' if you are offered this option.

    You are not yet under any military obligation, and your ticket home is already paid for. If your first choice is already gone, and the classifier can't do anything for you, then it is perfectly okay if you just say 'Hmmm... sounds good, but not today' and leave. They may not like that, and if you see this as being a possible outcome, make sure you've been promised a ride back to the airport.

    Signing the Paperwork
    If you DO select a classification, you and the classifier will go over a rather large stack of forms (some of which you may have completed earlier with your recruiter before going to MEPS). You'll be asked again about your drug history, you will be asked if you've participated in any hate groups, or if you have ever been a part of any conspiracy to violently overthrow the government of the United States of America (check 'no' on that one. Trust me.)

    You will also get around to your enlistment contract. The only thing that this contract guarantees is what is printed on the paper, something your classifier will likely remind you of multiple times. Pretty much all that is guaranteed is that you will be given a certain amount of training, and that you will be in the Navy (and all pluses and minuses that go with it). So, for instance, you COULD be trained as a journalist, but you could end up being actually ASSIGNED to scrub decks for a whole tour of duty (though nothing so extreme, and that doesn't happen very often). Another important thing, is that the Navy could force you to reenlist if they really needed/wanted to.

    After you've signed a number of papers a number of times, you will be taken to another separate room in which another NCO is located, possibly from another branch of the U.S. military (I am not sure whether or not it is standard policy to do this). There, they will likely engage in some small talk, directed to find out a bit about what kind of person you are, possibly as one last-ditch line of defense against crazies. They will also be the ones to administer the Don't Ask Don't Tell forms to you, in which you will agree not to have sexual relations with members of the same sex (and not having anything to do with your actual sexual orientation). There may or may not actually be any discussion of these papers, and there will certainly be no questions as to your sexual preferences.

    After this, your fingerprints will be taken. There will likely be a computerized scanning system which will be taking the prints, and it will probably involve an NCO taking hold of each of your fingers and repeatedly wiping them across the scanner in an attempt to get a 'good' shot of them. Congratulations, the Federal Government now has your fingerprints on file, so don't don't be surprised if the FBI comes knocking after you've committed a rather large crime.

    The Oath

    Hint: If you have a family member who has a commission in a branch of the United States military (they could be retired, since commissions stay with you after retirement), then you may request that they be the ones to swear you in.

    You are now ready to take your oath. You will be taken to another room in the MEPS facility, a small cube-shaped room with a flag of the United States of America, and the various branches of military service. You will be instructed to stand at attention at the center of the room by an NCO. The commanding officer of the facility will enter the room, and give you instructions on what you are to do as you take the oath. You will be told to raise your right hand, and repeat what the officer says. You will be told that you may either say 'solemnly swear', or 'solemnly affirm' (Note: 'solemnly covenant' is not an option), your preference may depend on religious factors (though this noder is too ignorant to make a theological distinction between the two words). The 'So help me God' is the tag line of the oath, and the officer will say it, but you will be given the option of either saying it, or not saying it. In the case that you do not say it, then there will be a short silence after the officer has finished saying 'God' before he will shake your hand and congratulate you. Afterwards, if you've brought a family member, the officer may offer to pose with you, pretending to be administering the oath, so that pictures may be taken.

    "I, __________, do solemnly swear/affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God (optional)."

    At this point, you will likely be returned to the Navy's section of the MEPS facility, where you will be given a backpack full of Navy gear such as T-shirts, pens, frisbees, binders, tiny footballs, baseball caps, etc., a letter from the Chief of Naval Operations and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy welcoming you to the Navy, a PQS booklet full of fun Navy information for you to study, a CD-ROM which will talk about boot camp, and another if you have entered into the Delayed Entry Program. You now go home.

    Waiting for Boot Camp
    If you're in DEP you will be 100% in the Navy... you just won't get paid or receive any health benefits. You will be able to access military facilities and use on-base exchanges and gyms and the like, however. You will have to check in with your recruiter on a weekly basis, and attend semi-monthly DEP meetings, where you will learn about things from uniform and rank recognition to first aid and marching skills (of course, learning marching skills may be difficult if you're the only DEP recruit in your area).

    There are some important things to remember in the time between your enlistment and basic training. Firstly, don't get in trouble with the law! You're in the Federal Government's big ol' database now, and if you get pulled over for drunk driving (or whatever), the police will see that you're with the Navy. And boy, will the Navy be angry with you.

    Another thing to remember is that basic training looms closer every day. Figure out exactly how out of shape you are (don't kid yourself), and get in an exercise program so that boot camp isn't quite as hellish as it might be. Pushups are important (42 minimum requirement for males), as is your time running 1.5 miles (12.5 minutes minimum for males). Get with your recruiter, and figure out how to whip yourself into shape. If you arrive at boot camp being able to do half of what they want you to, then that's an undefined amount better than arriving and being completely unable to do anything they ask of you.

    Finally, and this is the absolute most important thing that you should take away from this writeup. Every U.S. Navy recruiter receives a monthly monetary stipend for DEP functions. What does this mean? Why, free food of course. Ever-so-subtle suggestions to stop at Subway after a DEP meeting, or not-so-subtle suggestions to have a 'DEP picnic' at the local park are good avenues of attack.

    I have exhausted my knowledge on this subject (I think). Please feel more than welcome to /msg me with any corrections (I know there's at least ONE place where I mis-spell 'separately', and this may be one of them), comments, suggestions, clarifications, or abusive insults.

    And the comments come pouring in! Here's a positive one (from a fellow enlistee):
    1010011010 says I could have written the exact same thing. It was kinda creepy reading over it.
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