The recruits at the Military Entrance Processing Station come from different backgrounds and enlist in different service branches, but they have one thing in common.

At MEPS, they undergo physical and medical tests to determine if they are qualified to serve in the armed forces.

"Our job is to ensure that all applicants for enlistment meet the Department of Defense and service-specific aptitude and medical standards," said Air Force Maj. Sherman Goodwin, Fort Jackson MEPS commander.

"The medical standards are in the best interest of both the potential service members and the service," he explained. "We want each and every recruit to succeed in the service, and this precludes enlisting those with physical conditions that prevent them from doing their best in a very physically demanding environment."

All recruits are required to fill out a medical history form to disclose and explain previous and current medical conditions.

"One of the important components of the MEPS physical, just as with any physical from any health service provider, is the medical history," Goodwin said. "During the course of the MEPS physical, the applicant reviews the form. The applicant is given the opportunity to disclose information, medical or otherwise, that may preclude service."

During the physical, doctors conduct a variety of tests, ranging from blood and urine tests to a detailed individual examination.

A recruit's medical eligibility to enlist is determined by the outcome of the tests and by his or her medical history.

"The physical at the MEPS is more or less a snapshot of the person's physical health at that moment," Goodwin said. "Some underlying conditions may not display symptoms at all times. The individual may have a condition he or she is unaware of, and if no symptoms are present at that time, the physician has no reason to further question that."

If doctors at MEPS detect a medical condition that could keep the recruit from serving in the military, there may be several courses of action. The recruit may be disqualified from military service, or he or she may request a waiver.

The decision is usually made on a case-by-case basis, Goodwin said.