Medical Materiel Airman orchestrates 27th SOMDG success

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Like stage managers orchestrating a production, members of the 27th Special Operations Medical Support Squadron work behind the scenes at the 27th Special Operations Medical Group to facilitate excellent care during every phase of patient treatment.

The Air Force recruiting website,, puts it in layman’s terms: You can’t bandage a wound without bandages or administer medicine without medications. It’s up to medical materiel specialists to equip military treatment facilities with the supplies they need to treat Airman and their families.

Airman 1st Class Justin Graf, 27th SOMDSS medical materiel apprentice and recent recipient of the Air Force Special Operations Command Outstanding Medical Materiel Airman of the Year Award, can attest to the importance of his flight.

“I view medical materiel and logistics as the backbone of the clinic,” Graf said. “We play a large part in making the hospital run like a well-oiled machine. From the facilities to the contracts and supplies, we are in charge of making sure out of sight operations run smoothly.”

On any given day, Graf can be found communicating with vendors, providing 27th SOMDG departments with supplies, accounting for inventory and matching demand for first aid kits throughout the wing.

“Generally my day begins with sifting through email and prioritizing items that require action,” Graf said. “In the event of a product recall, I pull those items; if there are actionable requests from vendors, I handle that; if our customers throughout the clinic require supplies or assistance, I take care of them right away.”

“Because our customers, such as the pharmacy and dental clinic, order supplies from us and we order supplies from outside contractors, we act as distributors,” Graf continued. “It’s a lengthy process and requires a great deal of teamwork to execute.”

Motivated to enlist by a strong desire to serve and be part of something larger than himself, Graf entered the Air Force as a Tactical Air Control Party recruit. However, the Ohio native had to alter his vision of the future when he was reassigned to the medical materiel field.

“To be honest, I was rather disappointed when I found out what my job was,” Graf said. “I had known I wanted to join the Air Force for many years and had always envisioned myself in the fight. I thought medical materiel was going to be very one dimensional and wouldn’t be challenging enough to give me the feeling of contribution I was looking for. It was not until I arrived at Cannon that I realized how much there was to learn about this career field.”

February will mark Graf’s first anniversary at the 27th Special Operations Wing and according to him, there are still nooks and crannies left to discover within his specialty.

“There is so much more to this job than I thought,” Graf said. “I thought I was going to spend years on end in a warehouse, but I learn new things every day. It’s an awesome environment to work in and as the point of contact for first aid kits here, I am able to derive that sense of fulfillment and direct mission contribution I was after.”

In addition to his unexpected love for the job, Graf has found a second family at Cannon.

“I love my flight,” Graf said. “Being a single Airman can be tough at times, but with the support of my family back home and companionship of the family I’ve found here, I don’t find it hard to stay motivated or keep a positive mindset. Without my teammates here, I would likely have had an entirely different experience.”

In less than 365 days, the 27th SOW has irrevocably altered Graf’s outlook on the Air Force, his occupation and what it takes to be successful no matter where, or with whom you work.

“When the time comes for me to leave Cannon, I feel confident that I will have learned the most I could, focused on my career, and formed lasting friendships with a group of great people,” Graf said. “In my opinion, success is not dependent on where you are, it’s depended on your outlook. I would advise every Cannon Airman to get out, meet people, and make their own success.”