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Airman finds meaning 'sweating the small stuff'

Airman 1st Class Martel Surop, 60th Contracting Squadron contracting specialist, finds gratification in the small, but important tasks of his job at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)

Airman 1st Class Martel Surop, 60th Contracting Squadron contracting specialist, finds gratification in the small, but important tasks of his job at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- In a small cubicle, within a large office, in an expansive building, in the largest wing in Air Mobility Command, Airman 1st Class Martel Surop works diligently to do his part for the Air Force.

Officially my job is called contracting specialist; I buy stuff, a lot of stuff,” said Surop with the 60th Contracting Squadron.

Virtually everything Airmen use at work is acquired by a contract, from pens and sticky notes to C-5M upgrades; some sort of contract expedites the purchase. If you are reading this on printed paper, it’s because of a contract with a local publisher. On a computer at work? Yep, another contract.

During his two years at Travis Air Force Base, California, Surop has earned a solid reputation amongst his co-workers as an Airman who is committed to excellence. His supervisor, Staff Sgt. Ryan Cope, has seen it all first hand.

It’s obvious when you work with Surop that he cares a lot about what he does. He takes pride in his work, and he cares about others. He’s learned so much in the past two years, and now I see him sharing it with other Airmen,” said Cope.

Surop says ironically, it’s the small purchases at work that take the greatest amount of his effort, because unlike “large-dollar” orders, he’ll handle them alone. Nevertheless, he knows seemingly small items are what ultimately make the difference between mission success and failure.

Most of his work is focused on purchases for David Grant USAF Medical Center. Hip replacements, grafts, catheters, blood; whatever they use inside bodies, Surop helps them get it.

The most fulfilling part of my job is helping doctors when they need items quickly to save a life,” said Surop. “In a sense, it allows me to feel closer to the Air Force. We work in an office, so we won’t see it happen, but just knowing something we purchased helped save a life - that means a lot.”

Like many who join the Air Force, Surop did it, in part, for a chance to see the world. But unlike others, it was America he wanted to see most. In fact, before basic training, he had never set foot on the mainland.

Surop was born in Saipan, a U.S. commonwealth, but soon his family moved to their homeland in the Philippines. At 17, he travelled to Guam for college, and soon after considered the Air Force as a way to help with education costs, travel, and to learn about his country’s culture. The more he learned from his recruiter, the easier the decision to serve became.

When he arrived at Travis AFB, almost everything and everyone Surop knew was nearly 6,000 miles away. But he knew he was starting a new way of life, and he was eager to get started.

I was the last kid in my class you would think could be in the U.S. Air Force. Growing up in harsher conditions made me mature at a younger age. It also made me more appreciative of what I have now, so when I arrived here I felt strongly, things could only get better,” Surop recalled.

Indeed things did get better. After proving his mettle day-in and day-out for the past two years, it appears his destiny in the Air Force may include a commission. With a nearly completed application package for the U.S. Air Force Academy, the future of his American experience looks brighter than ever.

“If I’m not accepted into the academy, it will be a disappointment. But, for me, just being in the Air Force and living independently, those are meaningful accomplishments I didn’t know I could achieve when I was a kid. I’m just happy to do my part, to be a part of the Air Force.”