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From Skilbridge Intern to Social Media Project Manager

Mercedes Mele joined the Air Force after a revelation she had while working as a manager at Sonic. 

“From the time I was working at Sonic as a teenager, I felt like I wanted to be doing something more and different, and then realizing that, after I graduated college, I was still going to want to do more,” Mele explained. “I guess I’m always chasing a way to be a better version of myself, looking at five years and 10 years down the road. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to go into the military.’” 

She went to the recruiting office, and it took 10 months to join because she was set on a medical job. Unfortunately, there was a lack of medical slots open, so Mele made the decision to pivot to administration and, later, cybersecurity.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes Mele.

“I served eight years in the Air Force, and when I decided to get out, everyone kept asking why,” Mele said. “I kept getting told, ‘You’re what the Air Force needs.’ You know, I’m airman of the year, I got coined by the [senior enlisted advisor to the chairman], but to me, none of that mattered because I felt like I had more potential.” 

The next step for Mele was to transition out of the Air Force and find that next challenge, which came in the form of a Skillbridge internship.

“During the TAPS transition process, the Air Force really encourages their airmen to look into Skillbridge,” Mele explained. “The reason why Black Rifle Coffee has seen more Air Force applicants than any other branch is because of the difference in how each branch encourages their service members during transition.” 

“I had a hard time believing that that military was actually going to pay you for an internship for six months or so, but when I found out the Skillbridge internship was legit, I contacted a counselor,” Mele continued. “The hardest part, I think, is finding an organization that can match with you as a person. It’s really hard to narrow down, but when I saw BRCC on the list, it was just a sign.”

Photo courtesy of Mercedes Mele.

Mele came to BRCC looking for a challenge — “I wanted to be uncomfortable, I wanted to grow, I wasn’t looking for a company that just wanted me to, essentially, shut up and color,” Mele said. “At BRCC, it’s very clear that I have a voice, and so working with events and working with social media has been a great opportunity.”

“At the beginning of my Air Force career, I always said, ‘Do not ask what the Air Force can do for you; ask what you can do for the Air Force. How can you leave it better than you found it?’” Mele said. “But towards the end, I started asking what the Air Force could do for me, because I did what I could for the Air Force. It was time for them to take care of me. I mean, you can leave broken and disgruntled, or you can be happy and use all of those experiences, and at that point its time to have them take care of you.”

Mele spent her Skillbridge internship under the direction of the events team, working with Kaila Fain, BRCC central events manager.

“She was my other hydra head,” Fain said. “She’s quick on her feet and as kind as they come. Mercedes is going to be a great addition to the BRCC team. She’s a mom and an NCO, and with that being said, that woman can multitask and delegate and do work all at the same time.”

Photo courtesy of Mercedes Mele.

When the time came for Mele’s internship to end, she realized that she had to make a decision about whether she could stay on the events team with a 5-year-old son at home. 

“I want to be able to be near my son, and with the events team on the road, I knew that, if I wanted to stay with BRCC, I would have to try to find another fit. So after working with recruiting, I found myself joining the social media team,” Mele said. “I know my part is a small part, but feeling like I belong here and being able to help people, I’m part of the whole orchestra. Everything I’ve been a part of here at BRCC has just been an exciting experience.”

Photo courtesy of Mercedes Mele.

“When I first got out of the military, I cried. That had been my whole identity, and so leaving that was hard,” Mele said. “Now, working with BRCC, I feel like I know more about who I am, and I’m learning more about myself and growing more as a professional.”

To learn more about BRCC’s Skillbridge partnership, head here, and to get involved with Skillbridge, head here