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    Hey everyone! Yesterday I received a big fat tyvek envelope from Raytheon full of drug testing stuff and forms! Got the forms filled out and will be getting tested tomorrow, I understand the PQ stuff comes next. Assuming everything goes smoothly and I go to the doctors in Denver for testing, roughly how long does it take to go through the PQ process? Any tricks to make things go quicker? I’d like to go hike the Colorado Trail this summer starting in early-mid July if possible, but would only do that if I had a go ahead from Raytheon. Any thoughts?


    It can take a while. Hopefully you’ll take the exam and find out you’ve passed withing a couple of weeks. Thats the good side. They find nothing wrong. The other side of the coin is something shows up on the radar screen. This unfortunately is also normal and it usually doesn’t mean anything. Everybody’s blood levels of various compounds vary greatly from day to day. If today is your day for your whatazine levels to be a tenth of a degree over the limit, then you might be asked for a retest. In almost all cases you will be within the specs the next time. Anyway, retests can add weeks extra to the time. That’s the reason I always urge people to get their pq’s done as fast as possible. Using the Denver doctors can sometimes speed thing up a bit.
    good luck
    mike in mcmurdo


    Having better than average knowledge and experience in this area, let me interject a bit of common sense into the discussion.

    There are several points that RPSC does not make clear. First, RPSC is not entitled to information that is protected by HIPAA, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act. This includes your parent’s and sibling’s medical history. Although RPSC will probably pressure you to provide it, they are prohibited by law from demanding it.

    Likewise the HIV test. They will likely appeal to your civic responsibility and again try to pressure you, but the likelihood of needing to donate is small. They are prohibited by law from requiring it. See also the footnote.

    Almost everybody on the ice has a story or two or three about how RPSC messed up their tests and they had to retake them. Given the importance of keeping your medical records accurate, RPSC has a great deal of responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

    Nevertheless, numerous inaccuracies seem to occur. The simple way to prevent this is to have the results of your tests returned to your doctor for review, and then sent on to Raytheon. This is a win / win situation for everybody, including Raytheon, since if there is an inaccuracy it will be spotted sooner and you can be immediately retested, rather than waiting for Medical to review your results a month or so down the line. In addition, you have an opportunity to keep your medical information private. For example, if your test suggested prostate cancer or pregnancy, and a retest confirmed it, you certainly wouldn’t be going to the ice, and therefore RPSC really has no need to know. You would simply excuse yourself from the job and deal with the situation on your own. In that case, of course, you would not be reimbersed for the cost of the tests.

    More insidious is the drug test. Drug testing is problematic for two reasons. First, the tests are notoriously unreliable, often purporting to show illicit drug use where none exists. Secondly, the results cannot be verified by a later test. There is plenty of information about drug testing on the web, and I would encourage everyone to educate themselves.

    Again, the most logical solution is for your test results to be sent back to your doctor for verification, since, after all, YOU know if you did drugs or not, so you can easily verify whether the test was accurate or not. Again, a win /win for everyone involved. Whether RPSC will accept this or not is unclear.

    A second solution less logical solution is to have a backup test done with the same sample, at your expense, and the results sent back to your doctor. This is a lose / lose for everyone involved, since it means arguing over the results of the inaccurate test. On your part, you’ll be trying to convince Raytheon that the test is inaccurate, and they aren’t likely to believe you no matter how much evidence exists to the contrary.

    Last but not lest, for you winterovers, there’s the MMPI, or psychological test. The Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is what’s called a normalcy test; it designed to see if you think roughly the same way as an average male from the midwest.

    Composed of 700+ T / F questions, the idea is to get you to check off the answers without thinking about the answers, or even the unanswerable nature of them. Questions such as “my best friends are the ones I drink with” are designed to see if you have a drug problem. Others, such as “I like taking pictures of flowers” are designed to try and decide your sexual orientation. Failure to answer 30 or more questions invalidates the test.

    The test is usually followed by a session with a psychologist, who frequently suggests that the test shows that you have answered the questions carefully in order to get the job. Well, duh. Nobody ever accused psychologists of being smart.

    The fact of the matter is that the test doesn’t work, and in fact there have been a number of million +dollar settlements against companies who used it for hiring. When its Raytheon’s turn for such a lawsuit remains to be seen. Information about the MMPI, and probably a copy of the test, is available online.

    To once again interject commonsense, the logical way to find out whether a person is likely to have problems on the ice is to see what they are like at work.

    I hope this helps you understand what you’re getting involved in. I wouldn’t let it scare you, but you should definitely be aware that there’s more to it than meets the eye, and that RPSC isn’t likely to tell you the whole story.

    Good luck and enjoy the ride.


    It takes 3 months after contracting the HIV virus for a person to show positive on an HIV test. So a person could have sex with an HIV positive person on May 1st, have a clean test on July 1st, and donate HIV positive blood on the ice in October. They would be able to transmit the virus the entire time.


    I was sent to Bethesda in Maryland for psych eval in 94 to do the winter in 95. taking that test and seeing the mindbenders was a challenge since the painter foreman and I closed a bar the night before and we were both still not quite sober the next morning…. And we both still passed. Makes you wonder if they are looking for you to be sane enough or crazy enough to do a winter down there.


    Well, All the complaints about the medical process are all valid, I’m sure, but to be honest in real life it’s all very innoculus. Most jobs these days require a drug test. It’s hard to get around it. And yeah sometimes there are false positives, but it’s rare and I haven’t actually known anyone who flunked the test. That’s thousands of people passing through here and not knowing anyone? There are enough returnees coming back year after year to keep the gossip mill alive for stuff like that.

    The rest of the Medical? It’s not just HIV that they check, it’s everything. Actually I don’t think you flunk the PQ for hepititas or HIV, They just want to know who you are in case of emergency. You can flunk for liver enzymes, creatinine, etc. Is it legal for a company to base your employment on something like liver enzymes? I don’t know. But it’s been done for years.
    There no doubt are a lot of people who squeak through medically, that shouldn’t be down here. There is the occaisional person who lies on the medical exam or who hides something only to have it flare up down here. The powers that be don’t look kindly on falsified medical docs.

    Medivacs are very costly waste of precious resourses at the best of times and potentially put aircrews lives at risk in the worst times. It’s a no win situation no matter how it goes. You need to have healthy people here and the PQ process, however flawed is all they have to go on.

    The psych eval and background checks became a little tighter a few years back after a number of minor incidents. Nothing like the infamous hammer guy, just normal people who’s temperment changed with a little alcohol. The background checks are looking for indicators of violent behaviour, or drinking problems. If you’ve been arrested for drunken bar fights, this probably is not going to be a good place for you to work.
    The psych eval is not quite like the above post. These days the interview with the psychologist is during the test. They don’t have the answers in front of them so there is no way for them to accuse you of fudging the answers. Mostly they talk about how you manage stress and what kind of goals you have in life. I’m for it. The last think I want is to have the person working next to me solving their problems in the winter by drinking.


    Mike wrote:

    Most jobs these days require a drug test. It’s hard to get around it.

    Actually, most jobs don’t require a drug test, and especially not the better ones. Good employers respect their employees personal lives, understand that a chemical analysis of someone’s urine tells them far less than that person’s job history, and that insisting on a drug test can create a less productive “us against them” working environment.

    And yeah sometimes there are false positives, but … I haven’t actually known anyone who flunked the test.

    Of course not Mike, it wouldn’t be logical. If someone didn’t pass the drug test and weren’t hired because of it, you certainly wouldn’t meet that person on the ice, would you? But Raytheon’s policy doesn’t exclude hiring someone who flunks the drug test, it only states that the results of the drug test may affect the hiring decision. Which also means that RPSC could incorrectly consider your test positive, hire you but never tell you, and the results would only surface years later when you needed a high security clearance, etc. You likely wouldn’t be able to contest the results 10 to 15 years later.

    The question is, is your reputation worth risking on a test of dubious accuracy?

    Nice spin job though. Any thought of going into politics?


    @SZN wrote:

    Nice spin job though. Any thought of going into politics?

    Mike’s opinion is as valid as yours. Please do not engage in personal attacks.

    Been There

    Well said!



    Since you didn’t specify, I’ll have to guess whether it was the word “spin” or the word “politics” that you considered the insult. Since many people aspire to politics, I’ll assume that you felt the term “spin” was a personal attack.

    It’s not. I am truly impressed by Mike’s skill, and recognize that spin doctoring is intellectually and financially rewarded within the political arena. Hence the comments.

    But also remember that by calling something spin, I am expressing my opinion. And of course, everyone on this board has the exact same right to express their opinion, and pardon the assertiveness, but that includes me. I wrote that because I believe that people should understand it for what it (IMO) is. It gave me an opportunity to complement Mike at the same time.

    Mike is truly good at what he is doing. Even if I don’t agree with the picture he’s trying to create, I admire the skill with which he does it.

    I hope that clarifies things.

    Been There

    For those of us that know Mike, the idea of “spin” is pretty funny. As least that’s my take. Mike and many others that post to this site are trying to share their knowledge and experience earned over their many years in the program with other individuals that are interested in the program.



    We welcome your opinion on Antarctic topics. The problem is that you are expressing an opinion on another member of the board — a highly respected one, at that. On this board, it’s a rude breach of netiquette.

    If you disagree with this convention, perhaps there are other message boards on the web that are more your style.


    Been there, you obviously know me. Are you on the ice, now? If so stop and say hi.
    As to the spin. No spin. It’s how I really feel. I’m a firm believer that your life is what you make it. After 6 years in the program I still love the blizzards. I still love to see an aurora. I still love leading trips out of town and I still love it when a penguin wanders into town.Etc Etc. All that while working 6 days a week. This place is full of people like me. If someone puts on a class on basket weaving. the class will fill up. I’m teaching a basic boating class this year. It’s full. Hold a horseshoe tourney and it’s full.
    There are also lots of people who see things the other way. All they will see are the rules they don’t like. Most won’t come back.

    Been There

    Mike at McMurdo,

    Wish I could stop by to see you but unfortunately I am not wintering with you and never have had the pleasure to share the winter with you and Lorie. My winter experience goes back to the sixties but I have many, many summer months. You and I shared some time talking to a Boy Scout group via Ham Radio from McMurdo dinning facility a couple years back, which should give you a good hint on who Been There is. I had an earlier account under another name but thought it would be better to change to something else. Can be more open with comments, but relax KP, no personal attacks, as much as I would like to sometimes. But as Mike says, it takes all kinds and everyone can have their opinion.

    Hope you had a nice Mid Winter Dinner. Post some pictures!

    Been There, and wishing I could be there now!


    Yeah just for anyone else reading this. I started here June 6th and got PQ’d July 13th. That includes psych test for winter over, 1 filling and a gall bladder surgery, I had a hernia surgery 2 weeks before I showed up and was ok before the testing began. If you’re tip top you should be able to pass all this stuff pretty quickly, I had the blood test, dental and physical exams the second week I was here. It’s the whole getting fixed up thing that takes time. I know I posted this in the other thread but I’m so excited, ok have to concentrate…heat exchangers…load shedding…shunt trip breakers…focus!!


    Hey Nate!
    Congrats on getting PQ’d…I was a bit worried when you mentioned gall bladder surgery, but I’m glad to hear you made it.

    Surprisingly (despite my age…let’s just say I’m not one of the younger folks down here) I had no problems PQing except for the dental–something I did not expect. In fact, I thought I might be sent home after I got here…that’s another story.

    Send me an email (see my profile for my website and do it from there) and I’ll tell you more about those shunt trip breakers (just kidding…).

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