SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - They call it 'freedom's front door'. Before you ship off to basic training, you must first be able to meet minimum standards as set forth by the Department of Defense and each individual branch.
The process is called MEPS or the Military Entrance Processing Station. Staffed with military and civilian professionals, Shreveport MEPS is one of 65 locations across the country designed to determine an applicant's qualifications as set by each branch of military service.
"Today, we see a lot of people that want to say thank you for your service but what they fail to understand and recognize is that service starts right here inside this building, this is where we do it," said retired airman and Operations Supervisor Jay Jones, "They come in as a civilian, but when they walk out of here and you see them walking around on Barksdale, or Fort Polk, or any other military installation, you know that that service started right here in this building."
Shreveport MEPS covers approximately 34,000 square miles in the ArkLaTex, including 41 parishes and counties.
"At our medical section they will get their eyes checked, they will get their hearing checked as well, and they will conduct some physical screenings," explained Station Commander, U.S. Army Major Francisco Vazquez.
"It's amazing how many Americans come through this door volunteering, there is no one telling you have to do it," Vazquez continued, "They volunteer, they come in, they go through all the rigors, and they're able to go out and serve our country and this is what they want."
MEPS processing can take up to 2 days, some longer others shorter.
But not everyone who walks through those doors will be sworn in to serve.
"Unfortunately not all of them will be able to serve," Vazquez said.
He says the hardest part of his job is sharing that information with a recruit.
"I remind them It's not your fault you did what was right and you stood up and you wanted to volunteer."
Last year, Shreveport MEPS processed more than 5,500 recruits into the U.S Armed Forces.
Something Jones says helps give him hope for the future.
"It makes me feel proud to see that I'm passing the torch, handing the baton to other individuals who want to carry-on and care enough about the service to continue to stand guard at freedom's front door," Jones said.