Flight physical part 2
Big news, I passed my flight physical! I got back to Boston late Wednesday night after an exhausting 4 days in Pensacola. I was very relieved to learn that I passed. As usual, I kept notes about everything that I did, so I could share it with others.
I left for the airport Sunday at 8AM. I switched planes in Orlando and landed in Pensacola about an hour before our scheduled meet time. There were about 10 of us meeting there, all guys, from the 8th Marine Corps District and from the 1st Marine Corps District (my district). A 2nd Lt. and a Navy Corpsman (HM2) were meeting us at the airport. Everyone eventually arrived and we headed towards Naval Air Station Pensacola in our snazzy minivans.
We quickly received some bad news that we were staying in the BEQ (Bachelor Enlisted Quarters) as opposed to the BOQ (Bachelor Officers Quarters) where I thought we were staying. We were warned to not leave our rooms at night and to keep to ourselves. We stayed 3 to a room and shared the head with the adjoining room.
We dropped off our bags at the barracks and went out to Chili’s for our last meal. We wouldn’t be able to eat after 8PM for approximately 17 hours. We were advised by the Doc not eat anything too greasy or fried, for fear of throwing off our blood tests the next morning. I had a turkey sandwich with fries and a large caesar salad. After dinner the Lt. picked up 2 more guys from the airport while the rest of us went to sleep at the barracks.
We woke up around 5AM the next day and headed over to NAMI (Naval Operational Medicine Institute). We were handed a folder full of forms which we filled out for the next 30 minutes of so. The first day is when you do most of your exams, the next two days you basically sit around and wait for something to go wrong (for example, your chest x-ray came out fuzzy and they need to take another). As we sat in our chairs, we were sporadically called one at a time to different rooms in the building.
First up for me was the vision test. I was glad to get this over with first. For a future SNA (Student Naval Aviator) this is the most stressful part of the physical. First was the standard eye chart, except all 10 lines on the chart were for 20/20 vision. I was told to read the first line and I think the last line with one eye, then the other. The point of reading 2 out of 10 lines is to prevent people from memorizing lines on the chart. I read the chart with ease and was led into a room filled with various eye exam instruments. The next test was a depth perception test. You look into a small machine, which displays rows of 5 black circles, and are told to name the circle that appears closer to you then the others in the row. After the depth perception portion, I was shown two lines; one that looked like a staircase with different letters on each stair, another that intersected the stairs, and was told to name the stair the other line was intersecting at. Next was the color test. I sat in a chair about 10 feet from a machine that displayed 2 tiny colored lights, one above the other. The lights were red, white, or green, and changed when you named the colors correctly. After all the basic tests I was introduced to an actual eye doctor who sat me down in front of some lenses, and while shining a flashlight in my face inspected my eyes. A couple minutes later and I was told my eyes looked greatÂ and to sit back down in the waiting room.
A while later, a corpsman handed me two plastic vials, pointed in the direction of the bathroom and said, you know what to do.Â I returned, placed the vials in a rack, and was told to sit in a chair to have my blood drawn. 7 vials later and I was finished. Back to the waiting room.
Next was the hearing test. I was dreading this portion of the physical almost as much as the vision test. I was told to enter and take a seat in the soundproof chamber along with another candidate. Headphones are hanging on the wall in front of us, which we are instructed to place on our heads. Beeps come in groups of 3, when you hear the beeps, push the button on the remote connected to the wall. Sounds so simple you’re probably wondering why I don’t look forward to this exam. Imagine you’re sitting in this chamber and you’re hearing beeps and pushing the button when all of the sudden you stop hearing beeps; 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, and still no beeps. Imagine how nervous you get when you think the machine is beeping and you’re ears aren’t good enough to hear it. Every time I leave the chamber I think I’ve failed, only to later find out that I passed.
In the same part of the building as the hearing test is the x-ray room. For some reason they take an x-ray of your chest. You have to stand awkwardly close to a white plate mounted on the wall with your arms on your hips, pressing your upper body against the plate.
Next up was the talk and physical with the flight surgeon. In the beginning of the day one of the forms you filled out was a medical history form asking you to put a ‘yes’Â next to things that have happened in your life. For example, one question asks, ‘Have you ever had asthma?’ If you have, you mark ‘yes.’Â The surgeon basically goes through your medical history and asks you about things that you marked ‘yes’ next to. Expect to talk about broken bones, allergies, drugs, asthma, counseling, and anything else you put a ‘yes’Â next to. After the surgeon is satisfied with your answers, you are led into an examination room. The routine exam is administered, looking into your ears, listening to your heart, etc. Next the surgeon tests for testicular cancer and hernias. My surgeon was female, and was required to bring another male from the staff into the room while she performed the latter two tests.
After the surgeon I was given an EKG (Electrocardiogram) test. 10 or so sensors were taped to my chest, arms, and upper legs. The sensors were then connected to a big machine that records the small electric waves generated by the heart and is used to diagnose heart conditions.
Down the hall from the EKG was the Anthro room. I was measured and weighed and then asked to sit in a strange looking chair. The chair is used to accurately measure candidates to see whether they’ll fit into the cockpits of various planes and helicopters.
Last on my list was to see the dentist. The dentist was located in an entirely separate building on base. I wasn’t nervous about it at all since I had made sure my teeth were in good condition just a few months before. After an x-ray tech took 3 x-rays, the dentist looked at my teeth for all of 5 minutes. 15 minutes later I was on my way back to the waiting room to join the others. We met up with the others and headed over to the Naval Aviation Museum to grab some lunch. I had nachos and a cheesesteak. After lunch we went back to NAMI and spent the rest of the day sitting around reading magazines. At around 4 we finally left and headed back to the barracks. The Doc asked us if we wanted to do some PT, which we all agreed was a great idea. We changed into PT gear, and made our way to the trails. We ran about 4 miles on a wood-chip trail, as planes flew over our heads.
That night we went to Maguire’s, the “best Irish restaurant in Pensacola”Â according to the Doc. A couple other candidates and I got some liters of beer as we waited for our 14-person table to be set up. The food was really good and the beer tasted great. At 10 we headed back to the base barracks to get some sleep.
At 6AM we made our way back to NAMI for another entire day of sitting around waiting. A few people had to redo their blood tests, a couple had to have their heads x-rayed because of allergies, and one even had to go to the hospital to have his knee looked at by a specialist.
For lunch we went back to the Naval Aviation Museum, but this time got an hour and a half to walk around and check out all of the planes. It was pretty funny seeing a bunch of college graduates running around pointing and climbing on things. We were like kids in a candy store.
After the museum, we went back to NAMI where we sat for the rest of the day. When asked where we wanted to get dinner, a bunch of us were in the mood for seafood, so we went to Crabs. The meal was going fine up until two candidates went at it and glasses of water started being thrown. We left soon after.
The next day was the same thing, but this time we got breakfast beforehand. We got some IHOP, I had the stuffed french toast, and 3 cups of coffee. That afternoon I received the good news from the Doc that I had been physically qualified and that I was good to go. Nobody was outright NPQ’d (not physically qualified) which was a good thing.
We went back to the barracks where we packed our bags and returned our linens. The accommodations were fine, except for the constant 50-degree room temperature. We ended up putting a suitcase in front of the vent after the first night in an attempt to avoid hypothermia.
At the airport we were told to see if we could get on an earlier flight. I was first in line and was fortunate to get the only seat on the earlier flight that was scheduled to leave two hours before the other. I said my goodbyes, boarded the plane, and got back into Boston a little after 10PM.