Faces of the Force: Master Sgt. Julie Saorrono
Master Sgt. Julie Saoronno poses for a photo with a vendor in Ghazni, Afghanistan, during a vendor's day workshop in 2010.

FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?

SAORRONO: I am currently the 904th Contingency Contracting Battalion NCOIC at Fort Knox. My daily routine revolves around procuring supplies and services for a variety of customers, units and Soldiers that can range in number from 10 to 100. I'm also responsible for 51C, military contracting and classification training, where I teach individuals acquisition procedures and how to be a contracting officer representative. I also provide contingency contracting unit training. My job is important because I am constantly working to provide Soldiers with what they need, on time, so they can be successful in their different missions.

FOTF: Tell us about an interesting experience you've had on the job.

SAORRONO: When Hurricane Sandy hit the Atlantic Coast last year, we were called on to supply Fort Knox's 19th Engineer Battalion with basic life support as they helped victims in New Jersey. The unit was already in New Jersey when we got the call to help. I immediately started making phone calls to anyone I could think of to find vendors who could supply water, portable toilets and showers, tents, cots to sleep on, the capability to serve hot meals, whatever was needed to sustain the Soldiers during their mission. I was able to quickly locate a vendor with the right capabilities who was already in place on the ground. I ended up driving to Fort Dix, N.J., to manage all of the acquisition needs closer to the field.

FOTF: What were the challenges associated with this situation, and how did you overcome them?

SAORRONO: The first challenge was negotiating a price with the vendor. We wanted to use him because he was already on location and had everything that was needed in place, but his price was too high. I quickly did my homework to find competitive pricing and pointed out that he was already there supporting the National Guard, so he did not have to incur any additional set up fees. I was able to negotiate with him to lower his price to meet our cost targets and save the Army some money.

The greatest challenge, though, was trying to track down which organization was going to fund this activity. That could have been a showstopper, and we didn't have the luxury of time for that. Working with the battalion, it took about an hour to track down their resource manager at Fort Riley, Kan., who was able to give us the information we needed. We had the contract and the money, so all we had to do then was execute. Within a few hours, the 19th Engineer Battalion had everything it needed. That was a good day's work.

FOTF: What's the payoff for you in doing your job every day?

SAORRONO: Soldiers have a mission to do. In this particular situation, they didn't expect the mission, but they knew they had to go out and make it happen. They would have slept on the cold, wet ground without basic necessities if they had to in order to complete their mission. That's where I came in. It was my job to get them what they needed. Unless you've been there, you don't know what it's like not to have basic life support while on a mission.

When a Soldier comes up to me and thanks me for the hot meal or a warm shower, that's all I need to keep going because I know I've helped a fellow Soldier. What motivates me every day is knowing that I'm going to go to work and help somebody. I love what I do.

FOTF: What motivated you to join the Army, and were there any difficulties you faced as a result of your decision?

SAORRONO: I grew up in a family full of men, cousins and an uncle, who were all in the military. As a child, I'd listen to them tell stories about their experiences in Vietnam, or what it was like to lose a friend in battle. I decided at an early age that I was going to be the first female in my family to join the Army. I wanted to serve my country, and when I finished high school, I enlisted. At that point, I never thought about college, I could think only of the military.

The hardest part was leaving my home in Puerto Rico and going to the United States. I didn't know English very well. I believe that if you want to do something, you have to find a way to overcome the challenges. I wanted to be a part of the Army, and I was determined to go forward with it. I studied English and did extra things at boot camp, like physical training and keeping my bunk clean, to make sure I was on the right path.

FOTF: What key message would you like to share with others about life and the 51C acquisition career field?

SAORRONO: Take one day at a time, and work to turn a bad day into a good one by learning from it and making it positive for someone else. Just because something was bad today doesn't mean it will happen again tomorrow.

The 51C military occupation specialty provides a good opportunity for your life after the military. It is helping me get my degree, and I plan to go on and earn a master's degree. This will transfer well to the civilian world, where I can do the same thing to support Soldiers as a civilian employee. If your main goal is about taking care of the Soldier, this is the place to be.

Page last updated Fri March 22nd, 2013 at 00:00