Monday, June 30, 2008

RSP Drill #1

I had my first RSP (Recruit Sustainment Program) drill this weekend. It’s a sort of mini-boot camp the NG has you attend each month before you ship to Basic. The nice thing about it is that you are getting paid, as well as earning TIG & TIS (time-in-grade/time-in service . . . ya’ know, I’ll have to look at some kind of a sidebar or something to explain all these military acronyms so I don’t have to type them out each time.) Anyway, TIG/TIS are a big part of your promotion process so it helps put you further along on the path to our next rank, so the RSP is a good thing all around. I’ll be attending for approx. eight months before I ship to Basic, so once I’m done with all my entry training, I’m hoping to move up to the next rank pretty quickly after that. Did I mention my rank yet? No? Well, I’m currently a Private First Class (PFC) and the next rank up is Specialist, which –from everything I’ve read- is pretty much an automatic bump between 18-24 months unless you’re completely ate-up. (Ate-up: Army term denoting something/someone that is a complete mess!)

I was pretty nervous going into the drill. I am, after all, one sorry excuse for an old man! I really wanted to do well. I didn’t want to be the schmuck who was dragging the entire platoon down and getting us smoked for my inability to handle the physical requirements. I wanted to prove I could handle it. That was pretty important to me, so I’ve been working out pretty hard for the last few months to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself. Well, all-in-all, I was pretty happy with myself. I listened well, learned what I was supposed to learn quickly, and didn’t do anything stupid that pissed off the Platoon Sergeant (PSG). I kept up with all the physical stuff better than most of the young guys and I was pretty relieved to find that everyone (Cadre and recruit alike) thought someone my age joining was impressive rather than ridiculous. I really had fun (yea, I’m twisted that way!) all weekend. It would have been perfect except for one thing. (there’s always one, isn’t there?)

On Sunday morning we had to do our initial 1-1-1 physical assessment, which consists of doing as many pushups/sit-ups as you can in one minute, then running one mile. Well, I blew through the pushups and sit-ups, doing better than most of the young guys in my platoon. I wasn’t the best, but I was up near the top. My biggest concern was the run. I can run for distance at an easy jog, no problem, but I’d timed my mile runs before and I was hovering around the 9:00 minute mark. I needed to pull 8:30 at minimum. Well, we head out to run and I’m feeling good. I step out to a solid pace that kept me around the middle of the pack (I was amazed at how many folks had to stop and walk after ¼ mile of so!) I made it to the ¾ mile mark, still feeling really good. I wasn’t breathing too hard, had plenty of gas still in the tank, and my time was an easy 8:00. I was about to kick it into high gear for the last ½ mile and see if I could get in under the 8:00 mark when God decided to have a good joke at my expense. (He’s a funny guy, the Almighty is!) I was pushing so hard, I wasn’t watching the road in front of me and I never saw the huge rock in the middle of the street (Huge = maybe 6” across, 3”-4” high) my left foot came down on it and my ankle rolled underneath me. I felt a burst of pain in the ankle and went down like a ton of bricks. The PSG was only a few feet away when I went down and I hear him yell “Holy Shit!” then he was right there (along with a dozen or so fellow recruits who opted to help me instead of worrying about their run times. Good people!) I tried to get up and finish, cursing because my time was going to be blown to hell cuz the ankle hurt like an SOB! The PSG almost took my head off, ordering me to sit back down. I told him I’d be okay to finish:

Just tripped over a rock, Sgt!”

Rock, hell! That’s a friggin’ boulder! I saw your ankle twist under, that needs to be looked at by the medic!”

He sent the other recruits back to finish their run and they brought out a car to drive me back to the med building, where they had me ice it up for an hour or so and keep it elevated. They bandaged it up, and released me back to “light duty” which meant I wasn't allowed to run/jog at all and couldn’t walk for any distance. Not a big deal, since it was mid-morning on Sunday and most of what we had left was classroom instruction anyway. Wearing my combat boots definitely helped, they gave a lot of ankle support and the PSG made me fall out of formation and walk at my own pace to wherever we went.

The whole thing pissed me off to no end. The one thing I didn’t want was to be what they call a “Broke-Dick”. That’s somebody who’s always injured. Because I’m old to begin with, injury is always on everyone’s mind when they look at me. They wonder if my old bones can take the strain of military life and the last thing I wanted was to give them any reason to doubt me. Granted, this kind of injury was outside my control and not uncommon (had two other guys in there with me who did similar things) but I REALLY wanted to come through and show everybody (especially The Wife and The Boy) that I wasn’t too old to handle this. I know it’s not really a failure on my part but it feels that way. Anyhow, as of right now the ankle is pure black/blue and swollen up to triple it’s normal size, despite icing and keeping it elevated all night. I’m headed to the doctor tomorrow to see what’s up with it. I’m hoping it’s just a bad sprain and that it will heal quickly. I can’t afford to be off exercise for any length of time. Not with Basic coming up! I got a very small taste of what it will be like this weekend and I still need to do a lot of work!

So, want to hear the absolute coolest thing about the weekend? Well, two things actually, that are kinda related. The first is that I was issued my first set of ACU’s (Army Combat Uniform) this weekend. That’s the digital camouflage uniforms you see soldiers wear all the time. For the first time, I got to put on the uniform of an American Soldier and I was so proud, I couldn’t stop grinning. (All of us were. We were all laughing about how we looked ALMOST like real soldiers) The second thing was that I wore the uniform home and walked into the house, where The Wife and Boy got to see me in uniform for the first time. I think they were both impressed that I was actually doing this. The Wife gave me a huge hug and told me for the first time that she was very proud of me. Babe, if you’re reading this, I can’t even begin to tell you how much that meant to me. Even my ate-up ankle wasn’t enough to stop me from feeling like I could dance after that! As you all might have guessed from reading here, The Wife has been very nervous and skeptical about my decision to join the Guard. She’s been –at best- what I call Reluctantly Supportive, i.e. “You’re an asshole, but if it’s what you really want . . .” Yesterday, she was proud of me. Damn that felt good! I’m sure it won’t last long (I am still an asshole, after all!) but I’ll take it while I can.

I’ll let y’all know how the ankle is doing after I see the Doctor. I’ll even try to post more about the things we learned in RSP.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

MEPS - The Third Visit

No comments on my last few posts . . . am I that boring or are y'all just busy? :-) Anyway, on with the tale!

So, after two months of bureaucratic bungling the NGB approved my waiver. My Recruiter calls and we set up to head for MEPS on a Tuesday. As I said in the last post, I was smart and took the whole day off even though he figured I'd be in and out in a few hours. We get there at oh-dark-thirty again and I'm first man at the door. I know the drill by now so the MEPS staff don't need to yell at me. I check in with my service office, then up to the main desk to start the final process of swearing in. Um . . . well, I would have if they'd had my file. It must be down in the NG office, go get it. I run downstairs and . . . nope. Back up to the main desk. "Well, we don't have it, you'll need to wait over there." So it's back to chairs, where I once again sit until EVERYONE else has been processed. (Why do I keep trying to be the first guy in the door? It never works out!) Ninety minutes later, they call me up to tell me I'll have to come back another day since they can't find my file. (Are you frikkin' kidding me???) I'm about to lose my mind when . . . "Oh, here it is!" (Damn thing was LITERALLY right in front of her the entire time!) She was looking in the wrong place because I told her I was only there to swear in; the folder was in the "Full Medical" pile.

I tell her that I already did all my medical work, which entails another 20 minutes of phone calls and checking with other folks before they tell me that yes, I did but I need to have a second exam because it's been more than 45 days since my medical. (Yay!) So, it's back up to the med floor to strip down, get weighed & measured, re-do the physical agility test (Thank God, no re-test on the piss or rubber glove!) and get another once over by the Doctor. Finally, I'm done and they sign off on my medicals. Now I can go back to the NG office and sit with my Career Counselor to pick my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) and square away all my pay, rank, and bonus issues (the good stuff!) This should all go easily, right?


See, cuz the NGB made them re-write all the paperwork for the waiver, I had to re-fill out all MY paperwork as well - and I had to be DAMN sure it said EXACTLY the same thing as the originals. (Sigh. I actually had to redo one form twice because I accidentally checked a box that was for "Female Recruits Only") There's another hour shot. Now, it's on to getting my job squared away. I tell her I want a 68W slot and she types in her computer . . . OK, there's an opening in the 1/102 RSTA BN (mixed infantry/cavalry unit) that's only about a 1/2 hour drive from my house. Perfect, I'll take it! The Sgt. warns me that it's a combat unit and I could wind up in Iraq or A-stan. I tell her I understand that, I wanted a line unit. That's where I think I can do the most good.

The Sgt. gets back on her computer to reserve me a training slot and . . . "Uh-oh." My head is already starting to pound. What this time? "There are no 68W slots available for the rest of the year." What? You just told me there was an opening! "No, there are no TRAINING slots open. The NG has no more seats at the 68W school. You'll have to pick something else." I think about that for all of 30 seconds . . . "Sorry, Sgt. I can't do that. I'm 40 years old, I'm not joining the Guard for money or job training. I'm good on both of those, I'm joining because I want to be a Medic."

That surprised both her and my recruiter. "So, you're saying it's 68W or you're not enlisting?"

"Yup, I'm afraid so, Sgt." (Here's where I was thinking The Wife would being doing back flips when I told her I didn't enlist.)

"Well then, I'll just have to find you a goddam seat!"

Not the answer I was expecting, but I'll be damned if she didn't do just that. The Sgt. was an outstanding Counselor. She got on the phone with Ft. Sam Houston (Where they do the 68W training) and she spent FOUR HOURS (no lie!) fighting and arguing, making her way up the chain of command to get me a slot. Finally, she found me one but it wasn't until Jan, 2009. I didn't give a damn, I took the slot. After that, things actually ran smoothly. The Sgt. got me everything I wanted and more!

I got the job I wanted, the unit I wanted, the advanced rank I needed, and I even got the GI Bill kicker which pays me an additional $250/month, on top of the basic bill, for going back to college. Best of all, I got the largest bonus allowable by law AND they're paying it to me in a lump sum because I signed on to a "Critical Unit". That means I get the whole bonus as soon as I'm done with my Initial Entry Training, instead of 1/2 after IET and 1/2 three years later. Wasn't expecting that, but I was glad to take it!

Next, it was on to a security interview which I passed with no problems and then a quick break for food. Finally, I was ready to swear in. I stood at attention, in a room with six other recruits, in front of an Army Captain, raised my right hand and took my oath of enlistment:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of New Jersey 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 Governor of New Jersey and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to law and regulations. So help me God.

It may sound goofy to you, but it was one of the most moving moments of my life. With those few sentences I went from citizen to citizen-soldier. Call me a dork but it meant more to me than I can explain.


Monday, June 23, 2008

MEPS - The Second Visit

Hey, folks!

Sorry for the disappearance. I was on the road at work for 1-1/2 weeks (taught 21 seminars in eight days - woo hoo!) then took the family for a vacation down to Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Annapolis. Nice, relaxing, vacation. Slept in every morning, took our time seeing the sites, and had some really good meals. My kind of vaca!

So, where was I in my tale? Ah yes, my second visit to MEPS. I figured this would be a quick and easy one (silly me!) I just had to get two tests (ortho consult & glaucoma) done and I'd be out of there. I was first on the list, so no problems! Well, the Dr. I had to see for the consult wanted X-rays of the knee in question before he would see me, so they had to send me over to the local VA hospital to have the shots taken. Let me tell ya' folks, if you've never been inside a VA hospital, it's a pleasure you want to postpone for as long as possible. My old man was a disabled vet and he used to walk out of the things on a regular basis because they were filthy, understaffed, and the little staff they did have were unpleasant as hell. Seems nothing much has changed in the intervening years! I spent three hours sitting about and waiting to have an X-ray done and after it was finished I had to fight with the tech to get a copy I could bring back to the MEPS. (Luckily, the guy at MEPS had warned me about this and said "Do NOT take no for an answer! Make sure they give you a copy to bring back!") So, I got the X-rays, went back to MEPS and waited another two hours to see the Orthopedic Surgeon. Have to say, the Dr. was very nice. He was very interested in why I was joining at my age and we had a long conversation about it while he put me through the paces on my knee (bending, jumping, twisting, etc.) At the end he shook my hand (He was a Lt. Colonel, BTW) and thanked me for stepping up to do the job. That was pretty cool. I passed the consult with flying colors.

Next, I'm ready to have the glaucoma test, which means they send me off site AGAIN to a local eye Dr. who does the test for them. Another two hour wait for a 15 second test (it's where they blow the puff of air into each eye) Again: I pass with no trouble. Back to MEPS and they have me sit in the chairs for another hour. I'm getting a bit impatient when along comes My Buddy. "What you sitting here for, mijo?" He goes to the desk, grabs my file, reads through it and tells me to follow him. "All you need is the final sign off from the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) and you're done!" Alright! Now, we're getting somewhere!

He walks me past a line of twenty waiting recruits and right into the CMO's office. He hands over my packet and ask for a quick signature. The Dr. flips through my file and signs off on it, no problem. I figure I'm all set but as he hands the file back, he notices that I'm (you guessed it!) OVER 40!!! He takes back the file and says: "We need an EKG before we can pass him through." I groan, but My Buddy says "No problem!" He takes me right to the EKG room and hooks me up himself (Did I mention I loved this guy?) The first one he runs is no good (turns out one of the leads came off during the test) so he runs it again, telling me that if anybody else had done the test, they'd just have failed me and not tried again (I absolutely believe that! See why it pays to be nice?) Second test comes back flawless and he takes me back to see the CMO. Well, he's not available so he turns me over to another Dr. who can sign off (Little Dr. Rubber Glove, who I became so intimate with on trip #1) She looks at the EKG and signs off on my file, AGAIN. She hands it back and just as I'm turning to leave she notices . . . yup. I'm OVER 40!!!! She takes back the folder and looks through it for my blood work. Guess what? It's not there. She sends me out to the main desk and they call the lab that does the work and asks them to fax a copy of the results. This means another 45 minute wait before they get it and send be back in to see the Dr. She looks at the results and says: "No good, you have high cholesterol. That's a permanent disqualifier." PERMANENT? I felt like somebody kicked me in the nuts. I went through all this and they're gonna keep me out because my cholesterol was five (yup, only FIVE!) points too high???

Luckily, My Buddy was still there. He explained to me that it was just their terminology. It didn't mean I couldn't join, it just meant I had to get a waiver from the National Guard Medical Bureau in D.C. that said they'd still take me. "No problem, mijo, we get them all the time!" I thanked him for his help and it was back down to talk with my recruiter and let him know what was going on (poor guy was in the same boat as me: thought I'd be done in about two hours and he had to wait around for me all day!) He told mt the same thing as My Buddy. He figured he could get the waiver in 24 hours, 48 at most. "You'll be in the Guard by the end of the week," he said. Oh, was he ever wrong!

The saga of the waiver would take almost two full months to resolve. Seems the NGB couldn't read my file, so they asked for another copy. They scanned it and re-faxed. Still no good. They e-mailed it, still no good. They sent hard copies . . . uh-uh, still no go. The recruiter calls and they tell him the problem isn't the resolution or bad copies, it's the Doctor's hand writing. They just can't read it. This means that MEPS has to have a Dr. re-write my entire packet in a more legible hand. Finally, after two months of back and forth, the NGB approved my waiver and the recruiter calls me to say: "We're all set! One last trip to MEPS and you're in! It should be a quick one, in-and-out, you'll be home by noon!" Sounded nice, but I'd learned how schedules worked inside of MEPS. I took the entire day off work . . . just in case.

Good thing I did too, as you will see when we move on to: MEPS The Third Visit.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

MEPS - The First Visit (cont.)

So where were we? Oh yes, the ancient gnome of a Dr. was looking at my med history . . .

The problem was my left knee. I had a ruptured appendix when I was 13 that caused a secondary infection in my knee that required surgery. The Dr. wanted to see the medical records on the surgery. Despite the fact that the words “No Records Exist” were printed in large letters on the form (I know, I put them there myself!) she kept insisting she needed records. I explained to her that Doctors only keep records for seven years (You'd think she’d know this, wouldn’t you?) and that the surgery was TWENTY SEVEN years ago! Seriously, the Doctor who did the work has been retired for the last fifteen. I haven’t had a single problem with it for nearly thirty years, is this really a major concern? She finally said “Ok, never mind” and I figured we were all good. She told me to get dressed and go sit in the waiting area. I did, and wound up out there for another two hours waiting for someone to call my name. Now, the MEPS medical floor starts shutting down at 3:00 p.m. (Fair enough since they open at 6:00 a.m.) and here it is about 3:15 and I’m still sitting there, waiting. Well, here’s where my politeness pays off. I hear a voice behind me asking: “Hey, how’s it going, Mr. 68W?” I turn around an who’s standing there smiling at me?

My Buddy.

Yup, the Tech who did my bloodwork. I tell him I’m just sitting and waiting and he asks what for; to which I have to reply: “I have NO idea.” My Buddy says “Screw that, mijo! Follow me!” He takes me up to the desk, gets my file, reads through it and tells me the Dr. wants me to have a consult with an Orthopedic Surgeon about the knee (Despite the fact it’s been fine for 30 years!) and to have the wax cleaned out of my ears (Despite the fact I have a perfect hearing score!) and get a glaucoma test (cuz, ya’ know: I’m over 40!)My Buddy asks the guy at the desk why they haven’t done these yet and the guy says they’re shutting down for the day; there’s nobody to do the cleaning, the eye Dr. is closed, and the Ortho Dr. only comes in on Thursdays. My Buddy says he’ll do the cleaning and orders the other guy to put me on as the FIRST person on the list for an Ortho consult Thurs. a.m. followed by the eye exam. He takes me back and sets to cleaning out my ears (Weird ass feeling! They jet water in and suction it out at the same time. Wild.) He tells me to be at the door at 0530 on Thursday and that they’ll let me in, so I can be the first guy on the floor when the Dr. comes in. He proceeds to tell me all about Basic and 68W AIT, and a whole bunch of really solid advice on how to deal with the young kids I’ll be training with. While we’re chatting, I mention that I haven’t eaten since noon the previous day and he’s like: “Didn’t they tell you it’s ok to eat after the blood test? Damn man, let’s get you some food!” After the cleaning was done, he walked me down to the cafeteria and made the guy there get me a sandwich, even though they were already closed for the day. See? Simple courtesy goes a loooooonnnnngggg way! Important life lesson there, kiddies!

So, I ended my first day at MEPS. I headed back down to the NG office to meet up with my recruiter and head the hell home. All-in-all it turned out to be a 15 hour day (Not including the previous night in hotel hell!) but I had passed everything except for two minor tests, which I figured I’d blow through in an hour or two (Hopeful fool that I am!) I figured I’d be in the NJARNG in just another few days.

I couldn’t have been any more wrong, as you soon will see, in: MEPS – The Second Visit.


Monday, June 02, 2008

MEPS - The First Visit

MEPS – oh, what a joy!

Your day begins at oh-dark-thirty, standing in a line in the freezing morning rain (My first MEPS visit was mid- Feb. Yup, it took me THAT long to sign in!) with another hundred knuckleheads just as dumb as you for actually WANTING to be there! You walk through the door, get screamed at by a civilian DOD employee to move quicker, get your damn jacket off, and get your damn ass downstairs to your branch of service office! (Have to say, I found that the uniformed folks were pleasant as could be at MEPS. It was only the civilian staff who gave everyone crap.) I did as told, got my file from the National Guard office and brought it back to the main desk for processing. All seemed well, they had my name and info in the computer . . . “Here, just take this form up to the third floor and we’ll get you . . . Oh, wait! You’re over 40???” And CRASH!!!! There went all the smoothness of my day. See, the Army will take you up to age 42, but if you are unlucky enough to have passed your 40th birthday, they don’t make it easy for you. Every exam, every question, everything you do . . . there’s MORE of it if you’re over 40! The lady at the main desk told me to go sit on the side and wait because I had to bring special forms with me everywhere and they had to put them together. So I sat, and waited. And waited. I waited until every single recruit in the place had been sent to wherever they needed to go and THEN they called me up to begin the in-process. (Did I mention I was already hungry & cranky?) I arrived at 0430, was the third person on the line, and I wound up being the last person they processed in for the day at about 0900. Yay!

They finally send me upstairs and I’m well behind everyone else, so it means more waiting as the people running each station (eyes, hearing, etc.) have already moved on since everyone else is done. First was hearing: I put on the earphones and clicked a button every time I heard a tone. I was in a room with a 20-ish guy and the woman running it told me I didn’t have to meet the same standard as him, since I was “older” so not to worry. Had to laugh when she came back in with her eyebrows up in the air. “Damn, you got a perfect score! I’ve never seen that before.” She tells me, then has to inform the kid that he failed the hearing test. I felt bad for him but I have to admit it was a little satisfying. Next came blood pressure – no probs. Then it was onto documentation and medical history questionnaires. OY! Four hours to fill out five pages because it has to be done in a specific manner and somehow, somebody in the room managed to screw up every question. They wouldn’t let us move on until everyone in the room was done correctly, which was good for me – I was no longer behind but I had the damn forms done –correctly- in under ten minutes. Next was vision, which I was worried about. I’ve worn glasses my whole life and the eyes ain’t getting any better with age. No biggie though, my vision is well within Army minimums. Best thing at this station was the woman running it (she was 110 at the least!) started at the wrong end of the line, so I was back up front again. Yay, me!

Next up was blood & the piss test. I think the biggest shocks of my day came here. The ignorance of some folks boggles the brain. I watched the three guys in front of me curse out the lady taking the blood samples because:

1. It hurt.
2. They’d been waiting too long
3. They took the women in the room first.

Now when I say curse, I mean CURSE! This woman is doing her job and they started calling her the worst words you can call a female. I kid you not! By the time I got up there, she was on the verge of tears (Very nice little Spanish woman. She did NOT deserve to be spoken to that way!) She read my file and cringed because I was –you guessed it- over 40! “I’m sorry, but I have to take three extra vials from you,” she said, waiting for my outburst. “No problem, take as much as you like. I’ll make more!” She laughed and we started chatting while she got to work. Well, she stuck me three times without hitting a vein (hardly unusual for me) and she flinched again, expecting a tirade; especially when she told me she’d have to call her supervisor because she’s not allowed to do more than three sticks on one person. I told her it always took 5-6 sticks to get blood on me and not to worry about it. Her supervisor came over and he was really nice. The young woman stood next to him as he stuck me and told him: “I wish all our patients were like this guy, he’s an angel!” The supervisor got me on the first stick and we chatted while he drew copious amount of blood. He asked what I was planning on doing in the Army and when I told him I was going to be a Medic, I made a friend for life! He’d been an active duty medic for 12 years and was going back in as a NG medic himself. He’s also 40+ so he thought it was great I was going in. Let me tell you, the simple courtesy and politeness I showed these two folks made a HUGE difference for me later on; especially with the supervisor. For future reference, I’ll refer to him as My Buddy.

Next I moved on to the piss test. Simple as could be: stand on this line, whip it out in front of a watching Med-Tech so they can verify you’re not swapping someone else’s urine for yours (I assume this had been a problem in the past – ewww!!!) and fill the sample cup. When you’re done, bring it to the counter, let him test it, then dump it out, wash your hands and move on. Simple, no? Obviously not. I caught my second shock of the day when the dumb-ass next to me decided he was “pee shy” and turned away from the Tech to “Get his flow going!” (Yea, he announced it to all of us, just like that.) The Tech lost it on him. He told the dumb-ass he’d have to start the test again because he’d violated the process. The recruit started cursing and screaming at the Tech, even threatened to throw the cup of piss at him. Next thing, in come the MP’s who snatch the kid’s file, tear it up, and they bounce his ass out of the MEPS. (Actually, they locked him in a small room for a few hours while he waited for his recruiter to come get him, who –I imagine- was in no big hurry since the kid wasn’t getting in!) Brilliant, no? This is what I see as my biggest stumbling block in the future: having to deal with kids this immature on a daily basis. (Serenity now! Serenity now!)

Next I moved on to the actual physical exam with the M.D.’s. I went into a room with 30 other guys, stripped down to my underwear , and proceeded to bounce around through the goofiest poses, balances, and jumps you’ve ever seen. Of course, my fat old ass looked markedly out-of-place amongst all the 18 year old jocks and track stars. Funny though, I still fared better on the testing than most of them. Kids had muscles, but no balance or flexibility at all! Here is where I had my biggest worry: the weigh-in! The Army has maximum weights listed by age/height but they’re only quick guidelines. The true test is your body fat percentage. If you don’t pass the weight tables, they do what’s called a “tape test”. They measure your waist and neck three times each, then do some calcs on the computer to see if your fat % is within limits. If you fail THAT, then they put you through the ARMS test – a grueling five minutes of stair climbing, push-ups, sit-ups, etc. where they test your physical capabilities. I’d heard that few folks pass it and I did NOT want to have to take it! Well, I knew I wasn’t going to make the tables (I was still over by 12 lbs) so it was down to tape for me. They measured me up and ‘voila! I hit the requirement EXACTLY on the mark! I figured it was all a breeze after that. Silly man! I should know better.

The Dr. who examined me was the oldest & tiniest woman I’ve ever seen. I kid you not, I was afraid to breathe near her for fear of blowing her skin off! The true joy came when she brought out the rubber glove and Vaseline (Yup, the rectal is a requirement for the over 40 set!) Well, I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. After all, she was barely over four-foot tall. I mean, if ya’ gotta get it done, the tiny old woman is your best bet, right? Oh, was I ever wrong! I’m telling you: this woman was digging for gold in there! I swear, when she was done I was looking for brown stains on her elbows! (Okay, that’s really gross, but DAMN! Did she have to make me take a deep breath and push deeper three times????) It all seemed good until she started reviewing my medical history, then the real problems came up . . .

But, this post is already far too long, so we’ll cover that next time!