The Navy recruiter set us up to take the battery tests, the first part of the selection and admission process for all Navy applicants. Next came the physical exams. I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never had a physical exam before. Stripped to our boxer shorts we formed a line and moved forward between two examiners. One had a stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer, and the other an ear inspection flashlight looking gadget with a beak. Progress was slow.
Then we came to the scales, got weighed and proceeded to lie belly flat on a metal table where the technician gleefully took our temperatures using a good old rectal thermometer. At this point I felt abused. Next we went through the cardiac stress tests. An applicant ahead of me was on the treadmill. The doctor instructed the corpsman to increase the slope elevation to 4 with the speed set at 3.5 mph. The applicant began to gasp for air. His breathing became labored.
“Aye Sir,” replied the corpsman. The treadmill came to a virtual stop.
The doctor checked the applicant with his stethoscope, listening from every spot on the man’s chest, back, sides, and even on his neck. “Breathe!” he said as he moved his listening piece from side to side on the man’s back.
“Heart murmur,” the doctor commented looking at the note-taker assisting him. “Irregular heartbeat on the left ventricle,” the doctor added.
We never saw that applicant again after the diagnosis. The physical exams continued throughout the day, with the line of applicants becoming shorter. I hadn’t noticed but some of the applicants headed toward the locker room to get ready to leave. We surmised they didn’t make it through the physical exams at that point.
The Petty Officer in charge herded us to the foot doctor’s office. “Hello. I’m Doctor Wright Foote. Don’t laugh. I’m going to look at your sole, I can be a heel if you don’t coöperate…” he greeted us with a smile. Some of us looked puzzled.
“Is this the chaplain’s office?” asked one Smart Aleck applicant.
“No we are at the foot doctor’s, I think,” insisted one, not catching the joke. Oh well. It takes all kinds.
We sat down in the waiting room and given permission to read some of the literature and magazines. I remember one medical journal cover that had a feature story emblazoned on the cover: Medical Foot Solutions. The article presented the results of a study on flat feet and how the condition can have an impact on the safety of seamen serving aboard seagoing vessels. The article talked about the vessel’s pitch and yaw, the rocking and rolling from port to starboard and from fore to aft and how flat feet could be a liability.
I had flat feet. But that the arch can become better and more pronounced over time as I grow older and my bones develop. The foot doctor, besides tickling my sole and remarking I had good nerve sensitivity, gave me a clean bill of health. I served in the Navy for 20 years and retired from military service.