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SkillBridge provides AFMC Airman smooth transition to civilian workforce

WRIGHT PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Former Technical Sergeant Alicia Hall is still digesting her new civilian status and the ease with which it all came about through an internship in the Department of Defense SkillBridge Program.

The DOD SkillBridge Program allows service members to gain civilian work experience through an apprenticeship or internship during the last 180 days of their service commitment. Apprenticeships offer training in a possible future professions, while internships allow potential entrepreneurs to study a business model.

With transition on the horizon, Hall chose a 90-day training internship which coincided with her relocation plans and her entrepreneurial dreams.

“I thought I would go in, learn a little, help out a little bit and move on, but no, it has been a phenomenal experience,” said Hall.

As a noncommissioned officer at Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Personnel Management and Services, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Hall worked diligently to attain higher ranks and complete her degree.

In early 2019, however, Hall found herself at a point in her career where her dream of starting a business moved to the forefront.

A discussion with Chief Master Sgt. Vernae Ellis, chief enlisted manager, HQ AFMC Personnel Management and Services, introduced the SkillBridge Program.

“When I learned Tech. Sgt. Hall was separating from the Air Force to pursue her dreams as an entrepreneur, I immediately knew that she would be an excellent candidate for the SkillBridge Program because she is highly capable and motivated. I was positive an internship would provide the hands-on experience and training she would need to succeed,” said Ellis.

Through research, Hall found Charlynda Scales, owner and chief executive officer of Mutt’s Sauce, a local Dayton, Ohio company and on Oct. 3, 2019, she began her internship.

This small, local business proved to be exactly what was needed to fill many of the holes in Hall’s business knowledge.

“I got to be the executive assistant to the chief executive officer of Mutt’s Sauce, as well as the CEO’s right hand man. Scales helped me to build my company. I’ve learned how to pitch, do pricing and other aspects of putting a business forward in a favorable commercial light,” Hall explained.

While learning skills for her own business, Hall also helped increase market exposure for Mutt’s Sauce.

“With Tech. Sgt. Hall, I discovered the true value of hiring a veteran. Her work ethic was unlike anything I’d seen in a new hire and she quickly adapted to the Mutt’s Sauce culture,” explained Scales.

Lessons learned from her new mentor at Mutt’s Sauce aided Hall in determining entrepreneurship was right for her.

She is confident that her newfound skills will help her as she creates her own business, Lili’s Sweet Tea.

She plans to sell an original southern sweet tea similar to that she has served to her family for years. Later she hopes to add other beverages such as a peach green tea lemonade to her offerings as her business grows.

“With the right product in hand and new experiences to bridge the gap between my dreams and my new skills, I know my business will take off,” said Hall.

SkillBridge can help service members bridge the gap between the end of service and the beginning of their civilian careers.

More information can be found at https://dodskillbridge.usalearning.gov/program-overview.htm.