Final (?) Physical Exam. Or is it?

My most recent string of posts delved into the adventure that is checking out of the Marine Corps.  It was a search for pirate treasure and Easter Egg hunt all rolled into one, although not quite as thrilling.   After all, there were no Captain Jack Sparrows or Blackbeards, and the lack of candy filled plastic eggs was sadly evident.  Getting the final signature, however, made every line I queued in and every frustrating hunt for the holder of the magic checkout stamp well worth it.

One of the enchanted stamps I picked up along the way was held by the Medical Officer, whose duty it was to ensure that I was poked, prodded, specimined, and examined from the tips of my toes to the hairs on my head.  To that end my quest led me to the Regimental Surgeon’s office to endure the last physical examination I would be subjected to as a Marine.

I had heard many stories about the mysteries that surround the “final physical”- ranging from friends who said that it was no big deal to others who opined that it was far worse than they could possibly have foreseen.  Personally, I was hoping for an experience more on the “no big deal” side of the scale.  Just like everything else, however, it turned out to be not quite what I expected. I have been subject to myriad physicals throughout my career, ranging from halfhearted glances from bored medical technicians to the exams in which modesty plays no role whatsoever.  A big part of being a Marine (or a Soldier, Sailor, or Airman for that matter) is being physically fit and ready to fight, and our medical folks do a great job of ensuring that we are ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Before you are ready to fight, though, you have to be examined to ensure you are fit enough to serve.  Your relationship with physical exams begins with a battery of tests that begin before you ship to recruit or officer training (to make sure you are healthy and strong enough to make it through the rigors of bootcamp or Officer Candidate School) and continues once you get there.  Wanna be a pilot?  Special exam for you!  Paratrooper?  Exam for that, too.  Been a year since your last exam?  Time for another one!  Been deployed?  Step up to the counter and say “ahhhh…”  It seemingly never ends.

Until your final physical, that is.  My next few posts are going to bring you, my faithful reader, along for the ride to the aid station, hospital, and various clinics I had to visit to get that single stamp from the Medical Officer.  It was good, it was bad, it was funny, and it was sad, but most of all it was thorough.  Just how thorough you will see in my upcoming posts!