Monday, November 05, 2018
by Kathryn Holleman • email@example.com
BJC | Melynie Blackshear’s military service and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks put her on a career path she hadn’t planned, eventually bringing her to the one place she didn’t expect — BJC HealthCare.
Now that she’s here, she’s staying, she says.
Blackshear had always planned to pursue one of three careers: nursing, teaching or serving as an FBI agent.
After high school, she began medical assistant school to gain health care experience. She “loved every minute of it” and planned to become a nurse practitioner — until she began a hands-on internship.
“I hated it,” she says. “I couldn’t wait until it was over.” She knew a clinical career was out of the question.
She considered teaching until she realized that she wouldn’t be able to support herself. “I’m the kind of person who would buy every child school supplies, clothing if they needed it, lunch. I’d go broke as a teacher.”
So, Blackshear focused on becoming an FBI agent. To gain the required training and experience, she planned to join the military and then serve on the St. Louis city police force before applying to the FBI academy. “I wanted them to take me seriously,” she says.
She enlisted in the Air National Guard 131st Fighter Wing, then based at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, and began four months of training in San Antonio, Texas, at Lackland Air Force Base. Blackshear felt sure she had taken a big step toward her goal of working for the FBI.
She graduated from security force school Sept. 7, 2001.
“I graduated on a Friday morning, came home to St. Louis for a visit Friday afternoon and flew back to Virginia on Monday,” she says. “Then, Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, I watched the TV, saying, ‘OMG, what does this mean for me? I’m too new!’”
Blackshear received orders to report immediately to the Guard wing back at Lambert. But with all airports shut down in the wake of the terrorist attacks, she had no way to get back. “I sat at home thinking they were going to come and arrest me,” she says. When air traffic resumed three days later, Blackshear had to buy a $1,000 commercial airline ticket to get back to St. Louis and her unit.
About three weeks later, the U.S. began Operation Enduring Freedom (the Global War on Terror) and Blackshear’s Guard unit was activated with orders to report to Nellis Air Force Base on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
Although three of the four, 13-member teams in the 131st Fighter Wing eventually deployed to Afghanistan or Iceland, Blackshear’s team remained stateside. Her job, then, was to backfill positions of security troops who had been deployed, often working 14-hour shifts protecting the assets at Nellis Air Force Base, including attack aircraft, equipment and personnel.
The Nellis experience was eye-opening, says Blackshear. After the shock of 9/11, even the military leadership was sometimes at a loss on how to respond.
At the same time, she was awed by the scope of equipment and personnel ready to defend the country, and she was proud of her part in protecting them.
“You’d see the bombers and flight crews, how much artillery there was,” she says. “All the airmen on base and the weaponry — and you’re there to protect all of it.”
One of her favorite parts of the job, she says, was taking care of her personal weaponry. Blackshear was assigned to carry an M203 grenade launcher and became proficient at operating and maintaining it. She enjoyed not only practicing at the shooting range, but also keeping it in top operating condition.
“I loved taking care of it,” she says. “I could take it apart and put it back together in the dark. You have to be able to do that. When it’s life and death, your weapon is your best friend. It protects you, it protects others, and if it’s not maintained, it’s useless.”
Blackshear spent a year at Nellis Air Force Base before returning for a second year of active duty at Lambert. She spent four years after that in the Air Force Reserves, reporting and training at Lambert and Scott Air Force Base, traveling extensively on elective duty and providing security for dignitaries and military assets.
Blackshear earned the Air Force Achievement Medal from the Secretary of State for serving during Operation Enduring Freedom.
By then, however, her plan to become a police officer and eventually transition to the FBI was sidetracked indefinitely. She found that the St. Louis Police Department had instituted a hiring freeze.
“Reality set in,” says Blackshear.
So, she set off down a different path.
She married and now has a 12-year-old daughter and son. And she continued working as an office manager and an executive assistant at several small firms.
Her mother, Ernestine Jackson, had worked in Barnes-Jewish Hospital accounts payable (she retired in 2014). Her brother, James Jackson, is a BJH endoscopy ERCP technologist. Both urged her to apply at BJC. She resisted.
“They’d say, ‘Come on, try it. It’s great.’ But it wasn’t for me,” she says. “BJC scared me. I thought it was too big.”
Finally, the lure of a five-minute commute won her over. About six months ago, Blackshear was hired as executive assistant for David McCune, BJC corporate compliance vice president.
Blackshear says that although she’s still learning the ropes, working at BJC has exceeded her expectations. She loves her new job and her co-workers’ helpfulness. It helps, she says, that her boss is “a great guy.”
And Blackshear appreciates BJC connecting military veterans and allowing them to share their experiences on Veterans Day. “Only someone who’s been through it knows how it feels to serve — whether it’s guarding assets in a wartime military or digging holes for 24 hours on weekend Guard duty,” she says.
Working at BJC “has been the best job ever,” she says. “I’m definitely going to retire from here.”
BJC celebrates Veterans Day
Military service members, veterans and spouses invited to ‘Meet the Recruiter’ reception
BJC thanks military members, veterans and spouses for their service and support, and recognizes their unique talents. These honored members of the communities BJC serves are invited to a “Meet the Recruiter” reception to explore opportunities to join BJC’s mission of improving the health and well-being of communities it serves. The reception is from 4-7 p.m., Nov. 19, at the BJC Learning Institute, in the lower level auditorium. Space is limited, so guests should register to attend at BJC.org/MilitaryReception.
If you are a current BJC team member, you can invite family and friends who are military members, veterans and their spouses to register for the event. If the candidate includes your name during registration and attends, you’ll receive a $5 Starbucks gift card.
Event guests will have the opportunity to:
Current team members can also earn a referral bonus for all open positions. Be sure to tell your friends and family to add your name to their application before submitting, so you’ll be eligible for the bonus if they’re hired.
If you’re an employee seeking new internal career opportunities, log in to myBJCnet, and visit the myCareer folder on the myHR page to view and apply for open jobs.
Number of views (2416)/Comments (6)
11/7/2018 8:40 AM
Thank you for your service and welcome to the BJC family.
11/7/2018 1:55 PM
Congratulations and I wish you the best!!! Thank you for your protection and service.
11/8/2018 2:45 PM
Thank you for your service and welcome to BJC
11/11/2018 7:40 AM
Thank you for your service and welcome to BJC. HAPPY VETERANS DAY!
11/12/2018 3:36 AM
Thank you for your service and protecting our freedom!
11/13/2018 7:04 AM
Thank you so much for your service! May God continue to bless you and all of our Service men and women.