One of the big to-dos for me after being chosen by the Deserving Airman Commissioning Program (DACP) board was to complete my commissioning physical. Before my package can be sent to the Numbered Air Force (NAF) and Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) for final approval and blessing, I have to be medically cleared to proceed. Makes sense, seems simple enough, right? I tried to begin the process prior to the board and submitting my application (on someone else’s recommendation), but I was told by an Airman involved in the process that due to the extensive nature of the physical, they don’t bother starting until you’ve officially been approved by the board. Ok, no big deal, I waited.
As soon as the board gave me their blessing, I was back in contact with the folks at medical. The timing coincided with my annual physical for the Air Force, so it all worked out nicely, or so I thought it would. Prior to meeting with all of the doctors, I had to do a bunch of blood work and samples at the lab, which would require two weeks for results. They want you to fast prior to doing these. Oops. Got that memo a little too late, but everything seemed to come back fine, so no issues there. I also had to fill out the exact same paperwork I did for MEPS when I first listed. The UTA weekend of my annual physical was busy. I had my schedule jam-packed with a Change of Command ceremony, retirement celebrations, training, volunteering with the Development and Training Flight, and so forth. I figured my physical would be a couple of hours, tops. I was dead wrong. My annual physical should’ve been a non-fly physical since I work in an office. I went in there without thinking about how the commissioning portions of my physical would affect the number of procedures/assessments I’d have to finish or the number of specialists I’d have to see. To cut to the chase, if you’re going in for a commissioning physical, prepare for an all-day affair similar to when you went up to MEPS (if you’ve been through that process). Make arrangements to bring something to read/to do while you wait, and some food to tide you over until it’s all done. Being pregnant and sitting there all day was not a smart idea for me. Fortunately, I was able to call DH and have him bring me food. Regardless of whether you’ve been in the Air Force for a while or not, they’re going to run you through tests as though you’re brand-spanking’ new and they’re evaluating you for the first time. That’s what makes the process so long. I did the following:
Blood pressure – sitting, standing, and laying.
Vision – the full battery of tests, including depth perception, color-blindness, and as I found out late in the game, dilation of the eyes to the point that they recommend that someone else drives you home. Yeah, that would’ve been nice to know in advance. If you’re a contact lens wearer, bring your solution, case, and your glasses. My eyes were messed up for a long time afterward, which was really frustrating with as much as I had scheduled for that weekend. Oh yeah, contact lens wearers? You may want to rethink that if you’re in a rated position in the aircrew. I have a six-page document with a Letter of Understanding that must be signed if I wanted to wear contacts as an aircrew member, not to mention you can only wear certain brands, use a certain solution, and you have to have to go through this lengthy approval/follow-up process with your flight surgeon and ophthalmologist. Really ridiculously involved, especially if you’re like me and you’ve been wearing contacts for most of your life. I think it’d be easier to wear your glasses.
Hearing – I had to go in “the box,” put on the headphones and click the button every time I heard a sound in my ears. Do yourselves a favor and make sure your cellphone is left outside the box. Seems simple enough, but my head wasn’t in the game and I made that mistake.
Dental – Pretty straight-forward dental examination with a technician and a dentist, who’ll double-check your dental health and dental class (the DoD “ranks” your dental health on a scale of 1 to 4, which affects your ability to deploy, amongst other things).
Doctor – The doctor will sit down with you, reviewing your results and the forms you submitted prior to your physical.
The only parts I didn’t complete that day was the glucose test (you have to fast for twelve hours prior to the blood work) and the chest x-ray. I’m planning to do the glucose during my next UTA weekend, so I can do the majority of my fasting while I’m asleep. As for the chest x-ray, I’ll have to wait until my baby’s born in order to proceed. As soon as those two items are done, my package will be sent to the NAF and then AFRC. There was a place on my physical checklist to see the OB/GYN, but I didn’t end up having to do that since I’m pregnant and I’ve been supplying the clinic updates from my civilian OB/GYN regularly.
Hopefully, this information helps those of you that are up for your commissioning physical! Clear your schedule, bring snacks and something to do/read, and prepare to be patient.
I’m a 31 year old Navy sister, Army wife - Air Force wife to a prior service Marine/Soldier, and an Air Force Reservist. I am a happy wife and mother. My husband switched branches and joined me in the Air Force Reserve. We look forward to a future of dual military service!