By Air Force Airman 1st Class Tara A. Williamson
18th Wing Public Affairs
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa, Sept. 12, 2011 – Whether it's obtaining routine travel orders or simulating a deployment movement, chances are many service members here have been helped by Air Force Senior Airman Cristofer Mercado at one time or another.
"I enjoy helping out people, especially making sure that people get what they want and getting them to where they want," said Mercado, a passenger travel clerk who hails from San Diego.
Mercado, assigned to the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron, said his main duties are preparing orders and travel arrangements for deployments and medical evacuations. He handles real-world deployments and deployments for exercises.
"It's interesting and high-paced," he said. "I've pretty much sent people all over the world.”
Mercado said his office usually serves between 150 to 200 customers daily.
The airman said he previously served at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
"Incirlik Air Base was definitely a great experience and I am glad that I got the opportunity to be there and to meet such great people," Mercado said. "I can't really compare [Incirlik to Kadena] because I enjoy both."
Mercado said he loves his job and enjoys serving in the Air Force.
"I joined the Air Force because it was actually a dream I had when I was a little kid,” he said. “It didn't matter what I did in the Air Force. Everybody always asked me if I wanted to be a pilot -- I didn't want to be a pilot. I just wanted to be in the Air Force."
Mercado said he’s thinking about a future career as a kindergarten teacher, or perhaps an Air Force officer. His current people-centric job, he said, is good training.
“I love helping people, so it's a good job for me," he said.
Mercado said there are many challenging parts to his job that most customers don't see.
"We do a lot of paperwork; we have to contact a lot of the agents,” he said. “We work side-by-side with the Commercial Travel Office and they help us out and we help them out constantly with people's [travel] entitlements.
"The deployment tempo here is very high so we're constantly getting a fluctuation of people coming in and out, and we arrange their travel,” he continued. “The volume of people we see is big. I like it, but it's very stressful at times."
Yet, life at Kadena is not all work and no play, said Mercado, noting he enjoys learning about Japanese culture.
"It's a beautiful island," he said. "There are a lot of things to do. I get out as much as possible in the off-time that I get. I like to go around enjoying the culture and the food here. I love it."