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Member Focus: Jennie Sandland // October 18, 2012

Jennie Sandland, Anchorage Center

Jennie was born in Trout Lake, Wash., where she lived until she was 15, and then moved to the Val, Ore., area. Jennie joined the Army right out of high school as a Russian interrogator, which eventually led her to Anchorage.

Air traffic control career:

  • Began as an FAA contractor in 1993
  • Hired on as a Russian interpreter in the Alaskan Region AAL530 shop in 1994
  • Started as a controller at Merrill Tower in 1996 and transferred to Anchorage Tower in 2000
  • Went to Anchorage Center in 2002

Where did you go to school and how did you become fluent in Russian?

The Army is not known for their collaborative ability, so after asking for Spanish, they decided Russian would be perfect and sent me to DLI in Monterey, Calif., for a little over a year. I served for four years in South Carolina, Arizona, California, and Germany.

How did you get involved with NATCA? Do you have a family history of unionism?

I don’t have a family history of unionism, but I’ve been a NATCA member since I became an air traffic controller. I wasn’t really seeking involvement within NATCA to tell you the truth, but I’ve always had a strong desire to provide a better service, in this case a better service for pilots. I think there’s always room for improvement. So I started my involvement with the Anchorage Center Safety Workgroup about two years ago. Any time a safety-related issue comes up we take care of it. One of the neat things we did was create a monthly newsletter that opened communication between pilots and controllers. It was great because we answered any questions or concerns we heard from pilots and were able to give them a heads-up when changes were coming their way. It wasn’t the typical government jargon; it was very personal and very direct. But that newsletter only lasted a year and half. After accepting the role as Regional Coordinator [for collaboration], I had less time to provide a newsletter, but more importantly, I wasn’t spending enough time in the operations to provide meaningful information for the pilots. I was just able to get enough time on the floor in order to maintain currency.

So, what other activities are you involved with in NATCA?

Currently, I’m the Regional Coordinator for collaboration. I was approached in July about this, I thought I didn’t know much about collaboration and I couldn’t picture my life outside of my Anchorage Center family. But I began to look at the bigger picture of NATCA, and I took on the role. I don’t really like to argue or fight, but I do care about people. I hate to see them struggle and I felt I could really help out by being a part of this collaboration team. I’m also a team advocate for a pilot outreach program, which is a collaborative effort between Anchorage Center, Anchorage Tower, Anchorage Approach, and Merrill Tower. We hold a lot of informational booths at different seminars, sometimes speaking at schools during career days. We also aim to go to the pilots’ own training sessions and talk with them about any hot topics that are going on that might affect them. Instead of providing a Safety Seminar at a time and location that is convenient to us, we strive to meet them where they are, on their schedule, and talk about what they want to hear about. I am still the team advocate for our standing facility safety committee. Other than that, I frequently assist with different events going on within the region, such as Christmas parties, and I help out with providing pilots with tours at our facility.

Talk to me about your team’s collaboration efforts.

I am one of three NATCA representatives in the Western Region (there are three additional groups: Eastern, Central, Region X). We have three two-person teams (one management and one NATCA). My partner is Don Kirby (NCT). I have outstanding teammates who I depend on. They all have incredible integrity and are always willing to provide whatever support is needed. We all care about the facilities and want them to excel to their fullest ability. If we look back in history, at least over the 18 years I’ve been with NATCA, the FAA and NATCA have never really been a team working together. But we’ve always wanted to reach the same ultimate goal of keeping the NAS safe and efficient, we want the airlines to succeed, and we all want a happy place to work. So we finally started pulling our strengths together, and began collaborating. We’ve started the process of collaboration; collaboration is about working together for everyone’s benefit. By working together, we can achieve so much.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

We live “off the grid” here in Wasilla, you know, solar panels, generator, battery bank, and the whole bit — I’m pretty good with a chain saw. We have horses, goats, rabbits, and chickens roaming all over the place, as well as two lap dogs that Cesar the Dog Whisperer would argue “own me” instead of the other way around. I also have two teenage girls who keep me pretty busy. And I’m very involved in my church — especially efforts to help the homeless and the local crisis pregnancy center.

Do you have a favorite moment while at NATCA?

I’m not sure of a favorite moment, but I would like to share my biggest compliment I’ve ever received. It was when I was working a “Warbelow’s” pilot, and it really meant a lot to me when he said, “I’ve just got to let you know, it doesn’t matter how busy you are, you are always so patient and so polite and you never ever lose your temper.” I don’t think there’s any nicer compliment. It wasn’t about my abilities as a controller, it was about my professionalism. I don’t believe we ever have an excuse to berate people on the frequency.

Do you have any advice/tips/messages for members who would like to get involved?

I think my advice to those who are not involved is don’t wait for somebody to come to you. Actively seek out where you can get involved. We all have different characteristics, different passions. So really recognize your strengths, and step out, and approach those leaders in your area. And my advice for the leaders is to not forget about those who are quiet. Actively engage people. We have so many members who are out there not being utilized, so actively pull them into something. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

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