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National Professionalism Award

Winners of the National Professionalism Award:

2023: Greg Baker, Atlanta Center, ZTL (Eastern Service Area)

Greg began his air traffic control career as a co-operative education student in January, 1989 at ZTL. He graduated from the FAA Academy in 1990 and has worked at ZTL ever since. Greg has served as a Professional Standards Committee member since the program began in 2011, and currently represents the program as a Professional Standards District Chair for the Atlanta district. Greg has four children, two boys and two girls. As Greg approaches retirement, he looks on with pride as his oldest daughter is actively training at ZTL to become an air traffic controller. Greg’s positive impact on our profession will be felt long after he retires.

  • “Greg inspires me to be a better me.”
  • “Greg is a rock for professionalism.”
  • “Greg is a mentor and leader for everyone who has come into the building.”
  • “Greg is one who consistently goes above and beyond.”
  • “Greg does work to enrich others”
  • “More than a great work associate, he is a true friend.”
  • “Amazing work ethic and deep passion for his work.”
  • “Greg is knowledgeable, always smiling, honest, and doesn’t know the word ‘quit’.”

2023: Troy Thompson, Fort Worth Center, ZFW (Central Service Area)

Troy’s dream to be an air traffic controller started as a young boy when his father, who worked as a radar technician with the Marine Corps, introduced him to a local radar room. Troy has worked as an air traffic controller for 20 years at Alliance ATCT (AFW) and ZFW. It would be hard for a person that works around Troy to not recognize his passion for his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., and his family. Spending time with his wife and two kids is one of Troy’s favorite things to do in his off time. Troy has served in various NATCA roles over the years from Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President and Area Rep to ZFW Local Safety Council, ZFW Respect Team Lead, and the Professional and Development Committee. When asked about his motivation for the work he said, “You cannot effect change simply by watching. I try to be a positive influence on people with the goal of creating a safer environment, and a better experience for me and those around me. I am proud to be a part of this profession for so many years. Nearly everyone I encounter who learns about my profession is in awe. This is what continues to motivate me to help. I want to do whatever I can to maintain that positive impression of us.”

  • “Troy is genuine, passionate, puts the team before himself, knows his personal strengths and weaknesses, sets the example, and understands that it’s not the job you do, but it’s how you do the job.”
  • “His ability to encourage others to share their unique skills and out of work has not only allowed him to grow but encouraged others to do the same in their journey.”
  • “Troy motivates by the way he listens, responds, and walks through any and all issues. Troy understands being a role model is fostering open communication, collaboration with all team members, and being a lifelong learner.”

2023: Sam Navarro, Seattle ATCT, SEA (Western Service Area)

Sam Navarro has 22 years of air traffic experience, starting out in the Air Force and now working at Seattle Tower (SEA) in Seattle, Wash. Sam devotes much of her heart to NATCA including being a part of the Northwest Mountain Region (NNM) Leadership Team, Western Service Area (WSA) Safety Representative, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), Right from the Start, Onboarding, Reloaded, Historical Committee, and more. When we asked Sam why being involved is important, she said, “Sharing our individuality with the collective makes our Union stronger, more diverse, and it reminds us that we are more than air traffic controllers.” Another idea that is important to Sam is being a positive role model. She says it feels more important than ever now with everything going on in the industry. “A smile or a positive couple of words can make the difference to a peer. We don’t know what people are dealing with at home.” When Sam finds a free moment she enjoys spending time with her family, going to movies or Disney, or binging on her favorite show, Winning Time.

  • “Sam inspires others simply by being herself.”
  • “Sam’s professionalism is quiet, rather than forceful.”
  • “When approaching a difficult conversation, she communicates calmly, asking calibrated questions.”
  • “Sam exudes kindness and grace. She makes people want to learn to act as she does.”
  • “While Sam is a beacon of kindness, she is also fearless and will not simply acquiesce to nonsense.”
  • “She has a razor-sharp mind and has the skills to lead a conversation or process in the way it should go. While others may find themselves focused narrowly on a point of contention, Sam will find common ground outside of the issue, which tends to bring people back together.”
  • “Sam’s humility and composure, combined with a fierce ability to comprehend others’ needs and desires, gives her a unique ability to energize people into action.”

2022: Dale Burton, OGG (Western Service Area)

Dale Burton (OGG) is held in high regard by his coworkers who admire his contagious passion for the job and calm demeanor in emergency situations. His natural leadership helped to guide his facility through the challenges of COVID. He is always supportive of coworkers, encouraging them to better themselves while remaining a humble, selfless role model to the entire team. 

“Dale is such a selfless person. He is always looking for ways to recognize others and leads by example. Dale carries himself professionally and holds himself and the team accountable. Mr. Burton not only recognizes other controllers. Anytime the facility, controllers, or pilot needed him (for questions, guidance, OT, no matter the situation) Dale always showed up and dedicated his time to others. He has volunteered a lot of his own time at work and outside of work to make the facility a better place and make sure everyone was cared for. Dale is an inspiration to me for only what he does, but who he is. 

“Dale demonstrates how and what a great CPC controller should look like and emulate. Dale takes our profession very seriously and he demonstrates that seriousness by the amount of respect he has of our profession and by keeping that Standard held high and raising the bar even higher!” 

2022: Robert O’Reilly (I90) (Central Service Area)

Robert O’Reilly (I90) showed a true commitment to improving his facility. He has a passion for instruction, teaching 63 people as an OJTI. Robert has logged 1,481 hours of on-the-job-training and has been universally applauded by his peers for his patience and professionalism. His passion and credibility inspire and motivates his peers, superiors, and those currently in training at I90. 

“In 2021, Robert volunteered and was selected as I90’s East Area Training Representative. He takes an active interest in the development and needs of our trainees. He reviews training reports, attends team meetings, and works collaboratively with the training department to maximize the effectiveness of I90’s program.”

2022: Kevin Maney (N90) (Eastern Service Area)

Kevin Maney (N90) leads by example, setting a standard of professionalism that inspires his coworkers to be more involved. He approaches every interaction with selflessness and sincerity, educating without talking down to those he trains.  

“Kevin Maney regularly encourages new and long-time NATCA members to GET INVOLVED. As a leader in his facility, he is always working to bring others into the NATCA family. He does this by diversifying work groups and assigning new responsibilities to members to broaden their experience to promote NATCA. Kevin leads by example day in and day out as both an employee, union member and union leader. 

“Kevin is soft spoken and never talks down to you. He will take his own personal time to discuss and help you understand things and he will educate you when needed to ensure a positive outcome each and every day. ” 

2022: Dawn Forde (EE1) (Region X)

“Whenever she sees someone discouraged she always finds and leads them to a positive light and pulls the good out of any situation all the while being empathetic to ones feelings. ” 

“Dawns work is both physically and mentally demanding and yet she conquers any task she sets her mind to. 

Dawn Forde (EE1) is a true leader who is generous with her time, is always willing to help, and is dedicated to her work and her Union.  

“She is well-versed and very knowledgeable about the labor union and is always ready to advocate for BUEs. She handles both her FAA and NATCA responsibilities professionally and with a full plate she still manages to make time to consult and help others in need. I do not understand how she handles it all, but it is exemplary and inspiring to see that it can all be managed in a balanced professional manner.” 

2021: Eric Mauro, Merrill Field ATCT, MRI (Western Service Area)

High school graduation has a way of sneaking up on us. For Mauro, he didn’t have any ideas of where he wanted to go after high school or what he wanted to study. When attending a job fair, Mauro walked around feeling less than inspired. Finally, at one of the last booths, his heart leapt. He knew he was on to something special after talking with the air traffic control recruiters from the University of Alaska. Mauro went on to attend the university and worked at Fairbanks ATCT (FAI), Bozeman ATCT (BZN), and Helena ATCT (HLN). He is now the FacRep at MRI and also serves on the Alaskan Region’s Training Review Board.

Mauro’s peers describe him as a teacher, collaborator, and problem solver. He strives for the best outcome in every situation and motivates his peers in leading by example.

“Eric has a positive attitude any time I see him. This motivates me to maintain a positive attitude too.”

Mauro inspires others by helping to strengthen the NATCA family at MRI and through promoting teamwork. He helps celebrate peer accomplishments, birthdays, hard work, and more.

For Mauro, professionalism begins with being the best person you can be. Treating people with respect no matter what the circumstances are, doing the right thing even when no one is looking, and staying dedicated to the profession and team are all ideas that Mauro practices day in and day out. When asked what he believes sets him up for success in his professional and personal life he answered,

“A positive attitude and surrounding yourself with good people. It has been a tough couple years with a lot of hurdles along the way. There have been many chances to give up or be negative. Staying positive and knowing that we can make it through anything if we work as a team has really helped me both at home and at work.”

NATCA has tremendous gratitude for Mauro. The work he does for NATCA, for his region, for his local, and for each of us does not go unseen. Examples like Eric inspire us to be our best.

2021: Natasha Poepoe, Denver TRACON, D01 (Western Service Area)

“Mommy, I want a photo with her,” said a little girl visiting the tower with her mother as she pointed at Natasha. “I want to be like you when I grow up,” the girl said to Natasha. This moment in Poepoe’s life was powerful and special. It reminded Poepoe that aviation safety professionals touch the lives of so many through the work that we do, even when we might not realize it.

Poepoe’s dream to become an air traffic controller began in Hawaii where she worked as a flight attendant at Island Air. Once her co-workers understood her dream, they encouraged her to pursue it. It has always been important to Poepoe to develop and build relationships with those around her. She believes her success in her personal and professional life can be attributed directly to her team of family, friends, incredible controllers, pilots, and more. At Poepoe’s last facility, Kahului ATCT (OGG), controllers referred to each other as “Ohana,” which means family in Hawaiian.

“All members of my team have held me accountable, pushed me to be the best, helped me pursue my dreams, and have always been in my corner cheering me on,” said Poepoe. “My team is my backbone and I have the utmost love and gratitude towards each one of them.”

Professionalism can look and sound different to each of us. To Poepoe, professionalism is about integrity, accountability, leadership, and an ability and willingness to learn. Professionalism is the way you conduct yourself on and off frequency, whether people are or are not around.

“A question I ask myself is, ‘How will you be remembered?’ Though not always easy, I try my best to approach each day with gratitude and the intent to leave a memorable legacy.”

Poepoe’s words and visions are powerful and inspirational. Leading with passion and positivity takes our work to elevated levels. When we choose to treat our co-workers with respect, we can better focus on our mission, our values, and the safety of our flying public.

2021: Michelle Trudeau, Indianapolis Center, ZID (Central Service Area)

“We’re better together,” says Trudeau, national Partnership for Safety and Great Lakes regional safety representative. “It is so much easier and more rewarding when a goal is reached as a team working together and collaborating. While safety starts with every individual, teamwork is how it gets accomplished.”

Teamwork played a big role in inspiring Trudeau’s journey into air traffic control. It all started when she was in middle school touring Miami Center (ZMA), where her father worked. She remembers walking over the catwalk and looking down on the various areas at the center. She was able to see and listen to the controllers talk to the airplanes and to each other, and it was fascinating. Trudeau went on to join the military where she had her own opportunity to be a part of the ATC teamwork that she admired so much as a child.

“In Osan AB, South Korea, I was training on local control when we got extremely busy with inbounds during a wing recovery operation. It took every one of us in the tower that day to get through that push and it felt absolutely amazing at the end of it. We all high-fived each other and were so proud of the work we had just done. We were all on deck, all contributing, and all sharing the same goal.”  

When asked what professionalism means, Trudeau states that professionalism is how we handle ourselves every single day. It’s how we carry ourselves, how we communicate, and how we work as a team. It’s the extensive training that we all go through to get to this career. It’s the value we put on that training as we strive to improve every day.

“This job isn’t for everyone. It’s really the best occupation on the planet and like doctors and first responders, we are admired and respected. I think about that and carry that with me every day from the moment I step foot in the door.”

“I’m motivated when I see excellence in others. You tend to run faster or work harder when someone is there challenging you. I respond to that. When I see a process or a method that’s working well, I want to learn how to use the same concept or find out how to make that one better.”

The PS Committee recognizes that people like Trudeau help challenge us all to raise the bar. We are reminded that we have a common passion and common goals, and the way we approach our very important work matters.

2021: Jennifer Dickinson, Boston ATCT, BOS (Eastern Service Area)

Have you ever asked someone how they started on their air traffic journey? Everyone has a different story. Some fall into it, some plan it, and some make hard decisions to get there. For Dickinson, it was the latter. She was already accepted to college and planned to become a lawyer. When she was waiting tables saving up money for school the summer before college her father opened up to her.

“My father told me that not becoming an air traffic controller when he was in the military was one of his biggest regrets. He told me that four years would pass whether I went to college or went into the military. He asked me to think about which one would catapult my professional career the furthest. After our discussion I joined the Air Force and declined my college admission in order to become a controller.” 

Now, 22 years later, Jennifer remains grateful for her father’s heart-to-heart conversation that led her to the Air Force, the FAA, NATCA, and to BOS.

When asked why Dickinson is deserving of this award her peers said, “She inspires her co-workers daily. When she sees someone work a hard session or goes out of their way to help a pilot or co-worker, she praises them. She listens when people need to talk and lets people know that they can count on her to listen. She goes out of her way to get to know people. She makes everyone feel like part of the team. When people stray from the rules, she mentors them and leads by example.”

Dickinson believes that setting a high bar for yourself is a big part of professionalism. Working to improve ourselves, having a growth-mindset, being dependable, and practicing patience are all traits that Dickinson feels contribute to elevating professionalism.

“I have always been motivated through helping others and working hard. It is important to me that the people in my life both on a professional and personal level feel respected and know that they can always count on me. You only get one chance to leave your mark. To me, it is very important to live a purpose-driven life filled with healthy relationships and positivity. These things do not happen on their own. As with anything worth having it takes hard work. Part of that work is ensuring that I am respectful to the people around me. I also try to be patient even when it is hard. We are all human and we all experience challenges in our life. Kindness is worth its weight in gold.”

When Dickinson reflects on the excitement and fulfillment that air traffic control has brought her, she feels an overwhelming sense of gratitude. At 19 years old, working traffic alone for the first time, she remembers how lucky she felt to be in this job and how excited she was to be certified. “As aviation safety professionals we have an amazing opportunity to perform some of the most unique and coveted jobs in the country. What if we could all tap into the enthusiasm and motivation that each of us brought to our first day on the job? What would it look like? What would it feel like? Would it spread to others around us? How could it positively impact our teams today?”

2020: LaKecia Shuron, Reading ATCT (Eastern Service Area)

LaKecia “Ke” Shuron has been a controller at Reading ATCT (RDG) since 2016. She is involved with NATCA’s Union Synergy Committee, the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, and FAA GLOBE, and will soon become RDG’s next Professional Standards representative. LaKecia has also done outreach to schools, in her hometown of Baltimore, to spread awareness of air traffic control.

LaKecia has been strongly guided by an African Proverb, learned during training, that states, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” Her mother, a now retired Army specialist, instilled in her a very strong code of ethics. “Though not always easy, I have strived, for myself and others, to be better than what we were the day before,” said LaKecia. “Every situation should be used as an opportunity to improve. We should never get comfortable or become complacent.”

It is evident through Ke’s work inside and outside of the facility that she strives to lead by example, and recognizes the power of including others.

2020: Raul “Roy” Guerrero, Chicago Midway ATCT (Central Service Area)

Raul “Roy” Guerrero has been a controller at MDW ATCT for the past three years. Prior to working for the FAA, Roy served in the Marine Corps and also worked for contract towers in Alaska and Hawaii.

While Roy enjoys spending much of his off time with his family and being outdoors, he devotes time to building camaraderie with his peers too. It is evident that Roy has taken one of his favorite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” to heart. Whether he is in the operation leading by example, or organizing social events for his peers outside of work, Roy understands the importance of trust and teamwork in our profession.

2020: Jonathan Davis, Kahului ATCT (Western Service Area)

Jon Davis has been living his childhood dream of being an air traffic controller at Kahului ATCT (OGG) in Maui since 2008. He has served as FacRep and currently serves as OGG Treasurer and Professional Standards Committee member.

Jon fell in love with aviation as a young child when he and his grandfather would eat ice cream cones under the approach end of Kahului’s main runway. “From that moment on, I was hooked, I loved watching airplanes, and I dreamed about becoming an air traffic controller,” he said.

Before getting hired in the FAA, Jon worked to gain as much experience in the aviation industry as possible, working as an airport porter/skycap, ticket agent, baggage handler, load master, and in customer service for Hawaiian Airlines. Jon’s grandfather instilled in him the importance of finding a “career” vs. a “job.” A career would be something he would naturally be passionate about. Instead of his career feeling like work, he would never have to “work” a day in his life! Instead, his career would offer him fulfillment, allowing him the opportunity to give back to the profession in ways he didn’t fully understand at the time.

One of Jon’s favorite quotes is simple yet powerful, “be kind.” It is evident that Jon has taken this sentiment to heart. Jon’s kind, cheerful, and humble personality has not only touched the lives of many of his peers, it has also reached outside of his facility to many within the local aviation community. 

2019: Thomas Adcock, Miami Center (Eastern Service Area)

Tom began his career as a Co-Op student at Atlanta Center (ZTL) in 1985. After successfully completing the FAA Academy, Tom moved to Miami Center (ZMA) where he became a Certified Professional Controller (CPC) in 1989. He worked at ZMA until he assumed the role of NATCA National Training Liaison in 2012. Said his colleagues in nominating him for this award:

“Tom has worked tirelessly his entire career to ensure that the FAA’s training system works.”

“During his early years with the FAA, Tom dedicated himself to learning every aspect of being an air traffic controller. One facet of the job that always stood out to him was training. Tom has always set the bar high for himself and has always wanted to see to it that the FAA produced the most highly skilled professionals on the planet.”

“Tom’s dedication and professionalism extends beyond the FAA. Tom has always given of himself and has helped to organize and motivate others to do the same. During Hurricane Andrew and the many natural disasters since, Tom has opened his home to people, helped to clothe them, and made sure they had food and water. Tom has spent considerable time and his own finances to shop, pack, and transport supplies to many that were in desperate need of help. Tom didn’t just do this when it was convenient; he would do this at midnight before a day shift and then do it some more before the following midnight shift. Tom was always there anytime there was a need.”

Watch award presentation below.

2019: David Keifer, Indianapolis Center (Central Service Area)

Keifer has been a controller for over 20 years. He started his career in the U.S. Navy. He is the District Chair for the NATCA Professional Standards/Respect Workgroup, where he works to create a culture of collaboration in the Great Lakes Region, overseeing 14 committee members. His peers who nominated him for the award say his calm demeanor, agreeable disposition, and soft-spoken voice instills trust in those he works with:

“Dave is what I consider the definition of Professional Standards. He is always looking for the best solution to advance the safe operation of the National Airspace System (NAS), whether it be through collaboration and teamwork, or through his leadership.”  

“His knowledge of air traffic procedures, equipment, and human factors is immeasurable. Not only a friend, Dave is a great example of an air traffic controller who takes pride in ensuring safety across the NAS. He continually puts his own time into projects, meetings, and research to help develop a product that will allow controllers across the country to complete tasks safely and efficiently.”

“I consider Dave a mentor. He has gone out of his way to put me in positions to be successful in my career. His approach to training is second to none. Always looking out for the best interests of the team, and finding ways to help everyone succeed.”

“Regularly, Dave will bring ideas and innovation to meetings that lead to decisions and products that benefit and enhance the NAS. Dave does not settle for mediocrity and holds his co-workers, management counterparts, and Union brothers and sisters to standards to achieve excellence.”

It’s not just peers that have recognized Dave’s professionalism. His Front Line Manager stated, “Mr. Keifer has played an instrumental role in my ability to lead. Today’s environment is one in which managing processes and punitive actions will not help us achieve our mission. We have to be able to lead and influence others effectively and I feel the Professional Standards initiative has been a great tool. Dave has championed this program within our facility. 

“I have had several issues that, in the past, would have been approached with disciplinary action for the behavior in hopes of correcting it. I now have the resource of a very respected and professional individual who can help me lead that change informally. Every issue I have presented to Dave has been resolved without further occurrence and I am very confident in his abilities to achieve results in the future. His dedication, commitment, and professionalism make him an asset to have on my team. I am pleased to see his efforts being recognized.”

Watch award presentation below.

2019: Karena Marinas, Los Angeles Center (Western Service Area)

Marinas has served in many roles during her 14 years at ZLA. She has been on the local Professional Standards Committee, the Local Safety Council, served as a Facility Safety Rep, an Aviation Safety Investigator, and an OSHA NATCA Academy Instructor. She currently serves as the OSHA Committee Chair.

Several of Marinas’s peers who nominated her for the award spoke eloquently about her many accomplishments and professional traits:

“I can’t think of a better recipient for the NATCA Professionalism Award than Karena Marinas. Since the first week I checked into ZLA eight years ago, she has been the person we all go to for all things safety and professionalism. All the various committees she’s a part of and roles she plays both locally and nationally aside, every day she is on the floor working the operation, she is the most professional controller and co-worker I know.”

“I credit Karena for jump-starting my involvement in NATCA and I am thankful every day for it. I do not know anyone else more professional or as committed to safety than Karena and I feel confident that you will agree that she is the most deserving candidate for the NATCA Professionalism Award.”

“Karena executes and fulfills her responsibilities daily with uncompromising dedication and an unwavering commitment to maintaining a professional decorum. I count myself fortunate to have worked with her on a variety of issues and workgroups and have used her example as an inspiration for my own interactions.”

“My experiences with Karena have always been extremely positive and her professionalism displayed at ZLA has been a great example for everyone.”

“Karena strives to resolve issues by working with all sides to achieve the most beneficial outcome for everyone involved. All the while, treating everyone with respect and maintaining the highest level of professionalism.”

Watch award presentation below.

2018: Theresa Boykin, Wilmington, Del. ATCT (Eastern Service Area)

Theresa spent four years at Wilmington, Del. (ILG), before transferring to New York TRACON (N90). Every member at ILG endorsed Theresa for the professionalism award. Her air traffic manager voiced his support as well.

“For as long as I have known Theresa ‘Tess’ Boykin, she has been the epitome of a Professional! She has served as the linchpin for decision-making and team building in our facility regardless of her assignment. No task has been too great, no challenge too prodigious, no personality too astringent! Tess has always had an unparalleled ability to bring purposeful understanding to the most tenuous of situations. Her ability to relate to and communicate with people from every religion, background, and origin, made her the unquestionably best option for our Pro Standards Rep and Vice President of NATCA (Local) after only one year in the Agency.

“She has bridged the broadest of gaps in communication, and brought calm and meaningful resolutions to each person that has sought her wisdom. Without exception, Tess has served on every significant collaborative team, panel and committee at our facility. While serving in these many and varied positions she has continually brought the best out of each individual from developmentals to ATMs.”

“Her personal commitment to professionalism overflows from her in every activity, from the most preeminent to the seemingly inconsequential. Even after brief interactions with Tess, trainees and CPCs alike find themselves achieving new levels of knowledge and ability. This enthusiasm has made her the principal trainer throughout our facility, and go-to for insight and knowledge. Even so, what truly sets Tess’s professionalism above all others is her ability to lift every individuals own professionalism to new heights.”

Her facility representative added their thoughts. “Tess is a professional. When dealing with airport operations, pilots, vehicle operators, and management, you recognize Tess’s orientation to the operation. Commitment to safety is evident too. You witness Tess’s diligence and her commitment to safety, not only when she works air traffic or trains a developmental, but also by participating in programs that support safety in the NAS. Active in annual RSAT meetings, Communicating For Safety in Las Vegas, local safety council, and work done in collaborative workgroups, Tess demonstrates professionalism as a way of life. A passion for the career, a commitment to people and their safety, is why I say Tess is a professional.”

“Tess Boykin has helped tremendously throughout my time as a developmental at Wilmington Tower. Above all else, she shows relentless enthusiasm and always sets the standard for excellence. She continually reminds me and those she works with on how to give 100 percent effort with a smile. When I think of professionalism, I cannot think of anyone else who embodies this better than Mrs. Boykin,” added one impacted trainee.

Several of the local pilots also weighed in. “As a CFI (certified flight instructor) in Wilmington, working with Tess was an absolute pleasure. She always went out of her way to help pilots of all levels, especially student pilots. Tess would provide tower tours to help pilots witness the inner workings of an air traffic control tower. Furthermore, she has a way of making the most apprehensive pilot feel comfortable in what could be a stressful situation. Tess is more than deserving of this award and is an asset to ATC system.”

Another pilot added “Tess has always made herself available and gone above and beyond to help the flying community at ILG and the NAS. While it is not her job, she answers every question with knowledge and enthusiasm, making sure that effective communication has taken place and that all parties are satisfied. She has continually sought to keep the lines of communication open and respectful, and solved any misunderstandings that have arisen between my flying group and ATC. Tess has bridged every communication gap, and propagated professionalism throughout the flying community.”

Watch award presentation below.

2018: Deborah Anderson, Indianapolis Center (Central Service Area)

Anderson is a true professional with over 25 years of experience spent at Indianapolis Center (ZID).

“Debbie comes in EVERY day and maintains a level of professionalism that I didn’t think was possible. She ALWAYS puts aircraft and safety first. I first met Debbie as a D side trainee 12 years ago. I have worked next to her ever since. Debbie always made me feel like a human being. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. She treats everyone (including pilots) with respect and dignity regardless of status or experience. She consistently does the right thing every day,” said one impressed co-worker.              

And it’s not just peers that have recognized Debbie’s professionalism. Her front line manager stated, “I have been fortunate enough to work with Debbie for the past three and a half years. I have also had the opportunity to teach annual recurrent training. I always task the class to think of an individual they work with that they feel exudes professionalism. Undoubtedly, not just one or two individuals will say Debbie, but anyone who has worked with her. Furthermore, when her name does come up, individuals who know her, without question will agree.”

It doesn’t stop there. Many more co-workers voiced their support as well. Here are some examples of the many positive comments.

“Debbie Anderson is a consummate professional. Her high level of personal integrity shines through to those that work around her. She holds herself and the others that work around her to a higher standard of professionalism. Debbie is eager to foster that professionalism to the next generation of controllers following behind her through training and career development. She communicates to others around her with respect and understanding. She applies her professionalism to controlling aircraft by adhering to the rules and regulations with safety always maintained. Her actions have raised the bar on professionalism for those that work around her on a daily basis.”

“It has been my pleasure to work with Ms. Anderson for the last 16 years. Her attention to detail when training, whether on a radar or a radar associate position, is impressive. Her book knowledge reflects a professional that takes pride in her day-to-day work, as well as having a deeper understanding of our methods to help out her fellow controllers. She is quick to lend a hand, and her presence at ZID is certainly a benefit to all.”

Watch award presentation below.

2018: Ray ‘Murl’ Peters, Spokane ATCT (Western Service Area)

Ray began his career at Great Falls (GTF) in February 2012 and then transferred to Spokane (GEG) in the first part of 2016. His co-workers had much to say about the impact Ray has on the system.       

“Ray deserves the Professionalism Award because each and every day he comes to work, he goes above and beyond for his coworkers at this facility and the users of the NAS. He is model of consistency to everyone around him. Anytime a situation arises, Ray works tirelessly to find a solution,” said one co-worker.

Another described how Ray’s professionalism resulted in a successful outcome in a training challenge. “The effort and dedication Ray showed to the training team before we even started gave me the motivation I needed. His approach to the training team challenged me to be a better OJTI, not just on this team but also on other teams in the future. Throughout the training process, Ray definitely kept us all focused and dedicated to the team and to the success of the developmental who did go on to certify.”

Other peers echoed many of the same comments.

“Ray has helped me navigate my new ATC career more than any other controller. Being just behind him in his CPC-IT training and now being on the same crew as him has been a bigger blessing than I could have asked for. He is an endless resource.”

“I was really struggling to make sense of what I was going through and how to move forward to certify. I was not in a great spot. Ray devoted untold amounts of time in trying to solve my issues and come up with solutions that neither my previous training team nor I could come up with.  Ray quickly identified an issue that was keeping me from progressing and he came up with a training plan outside of what the training team required. This plan was the standard he wanted me to show him before certification that was above and beyond CPC level.”

“This was the training caliber he wanted me to get to. We noticed a very significant change of my performance in a short period of time. It all came down to Ray identifying my issues and actively striving to abolish them. My certification is a testament to Ray’s unwavering sense of duty to the position and to his peers.”

Watch award presentation below.

2017: Pete Slattery, Charlotte ATCT (Eastern Service Area)

Pete Slattery (Charlotte, CLT) was one of the five winners of the second annual NATCA National Professionalism Awards.

In nominating Slattery for the awards, his entire local CLT Executive Board had this to say:

“Pete is one of those guys who displays professionalism 100 percent of the time. Pete will always be the one in the room who is prepared and professional at all times. There are many things that come to mind when we think of professionalism. Integrity, respect from peers, respect of others, positive attitude, willingness to work with others, dedication, and reliability are just a few that we think of when describing Pete.

“One unique characteristic of Pete that is admired by all of us is his willingness to listen. Over the course of our collective careers, there have been few that stand out as more professional than Pete Slattery. Recognizing him with such an award would be fitting and appropriate. Of course, if you elect to do so, we would expect Pete to be humbled and appreciative of such recognition…like a true professional would.”

Below are the words used by Slattery’s peers and co-workers who submitted them in support of his nomination:

“Since the day I started at Charlotte, I have never seen Pete Slattery as anything other than professional. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him with his shirt untucked. Pete has demonstrated professionalism on numerous levels as a controller, an active union member, a traffic management coordinator, and a coworker in general. If I want to know the answer to something, I ask Pete. If I need help with something or need something done quickly, I can ask Pete.”

“In this job, you have to be a team player. I have watched Pete, day in and day out, assist and support both the tower and the TRACON in performing their duties as easily and as expeditious as possible.”

“When the operation is moving perfectly and traffic is being flowed proactively to proper runways, I think to myself, ‘Pete must be here.’”

“Pete has volunteered at schools, on career day, and at other functions to help show the flying public what our job is all about. He has always played an active role in our union and participated in the vital improvement to our technology and procedures in the National Airspace System (NAS). On both local and national levels, I have seen firsthand that any task Pete takes on is done well and overall helps to improve our profession as a whole.”

“Quite simply put: This individual embodies everything that comes to mind when I think of a professional and acts of professionalism. He is an individual with high integrity, has the respect of his peers, and is constantly being a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.”

“Professionalism is the one and only word I would use to describe Mr. Slattery. He always takes time out of his day to help educate members of our facility, as well as schools, tours, and anyone expressing interest in our great profession. Pete dresses and carries himself in a professional manner at ALL times. He, in my opinion, is the best at what he does, and never needs anyone to tell him that. No matter what line of work you are talking about, professionals like Pete are few and far between. Our union and profession are stronger because of Pete, and I hope he is recognized for the countless hours he has provided in order to build a better National Airspace System. Pete is the definition of professionalism, and is a role model to the younger generation on how to be an outstanding employee.”

“I have only known Pete for a year and a half, but in that time I have seen more professionalism and desire to improve the NAS come from him than anyone else in my career. He is exactly what a NATCA professional should be, and I can honestly say that if there were anyone who’s career I would want to emulate, it would be Pete’s.”

Watch award presentation below.

2017: Alan Stensland, Engineers Southern Region (Region X)

Those who know Stensland, an FAA Engineer and Field Incident Response Lead, fondly refer to him as Hurricane Alan because he has worked during every hurricane from Andrew in 1992 to Matthew in 2016. He began his career with the FAA in 1984 as an En Route Resident Engineer. During Hurricane Andrew, he performed collateral duty as the initial regional program manager for Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health, also working to start the current EOSH Program. Prior to this, there were not processes or procedures for FAA Field Incident Response. Stensland proposed a system and was “challenged” to proceed and make it work. The state-of-the-art Incident Command System (ICS) was used as the basis of the proposed system.

The Field Incident Response (FIR) created an organization to be used to manage the complexities of assessment and recovery when local area infrastructures had been subjected to a disaster. The ESA FIR Plan has been used and continually improved for every disaster since its creation.

In 2011, Stensland began the task to document the plan and then train all Tech Ops responders possible. In 2012 the first draft of the ESA FIR District and SSC Guidance Manual was completed. In 2013 Stensland began the training for the District Management Teams, which included the District Managers and SSC Managers, Engineering Services, and Technical Services. In 2014 he began the training at the System Support Centers (SS). During that time he also represented the FAA as the subject matter expert with New York/New Jersey Port Authority after Hurricane Sandy. In 2016 Stensland developed an air traffic version of the guidance manual and training, with district and facility managers when possible.

In addition, Stensland has been the ESO Engineers and Architects representative for Technical Operations and Technical Services for many years. During that time he has worked to represent the Union and mentor and coach other bargaining unit employees. He is also a strong advocate for the Boy Scouts of America. He has received numerous awards and honors from them and has held several leadership positions.

Here is what several of Stensland’s peers and co-workers had to say:

“I have been involved with hurricane responses for a long time. When we first started, it was a handful of smart, well-meaning engineers that would travel into harm’s way to investigate the hurricane’s effect on our facilities. Many times the employees traveled with backpacks and little else. Communication was poor, food and water and lodging may not be available, so the teams traveled with their own provisions, much like going on a camping trip. When Alan became involved, he brought organization and planning into the process which eventually lead to the all-important funding. This is one of the reasons why we affectionately call him “Hurricane Alan.”

“The last component of “Hurricane Alan’s” major contributions was the development and formalized documentation of processes and procedures. Alan expanded the teams to include support from the acquisition team, the logistics support team along with the human component to support both the impacted employees as well as those responders. Now we have a very formalized and efficient process and program that is funded, well trained and prepared to safely respond to not only hurricanes, but any type of disaster. Alan is to be commended for this vision and his tenacity to bring his vision into reality. The NAS is in better hands with Alan’s efforts as are those responding to the disasters as well as those impacted by disaster. Alan is truly the father of our extremely successful disaster response program.”

“Although my staff and I constantly monitor tropical weather, it is often Alan who beats us to early analysis of tropical wave development and potential risks for major storm development. He has a genuine passion for emergency planning and preparation. He has developed web portals that pale NWS and commercial weather organizations in that he correlates tons of data to forecast potential impact to NAS equipment so that Tech Ops resources are in place to ensure the most efficient protection and restoration of equipment. Alan’s combination of an impeccable work ethic, passion, experience, and dedication make him a tremendous asset.”

“Alan Stensland is, in my opinion, the most qualified expert that the FAA has in the area of emergency response. I have had the pleasure to work at least three emergency events with Alan in my role with the Eastern Service Center Significant Incident Response Group. When prioritizing the restoral of NAS equipment after events, Alan’s professionalism, technical expertise, and knowledge allowed us to quickly restore out of service equipment. Alan is not only an expert in responding to events but he also developed the emergency response procedures used by Tech Ops. Alan shows a willingness to learn as much as he can about the role of other lines of business to help him succeed in his emergency response role.”

“Alan Stensland has been an inspiration for the entire nine years I have known and worked with him. There are very few people who love their calling as much as Alan does. His calling has been to improve the safe and effective response to adverse events in the NAS, through thorough understanding, planning, and practice.”

“Alan is, at the same time, knowledgeable, determined, patient, and passionate. He encourages his co-workers to take ownership of the challenges of emergency response as he has, and teaches them how. He also asks for their input to refine processes. Because of his leadership style he has developed a cadre of volunteers who are eager to step up at a moment’s notice and respond to emergency events.”

“It has been an honor to know a man of the high moral character Alan Stensland lives out; a privilege to work with someone as competent, inquisitive, and dedicated as he is; and a rare opportunity to know someone who embodies all those attributes. Alan is deserving of all the accolades that could be heaped upon him.”

Watch award presentation below.

2017: Matt Sullivan, Potomac TRACON (Eastern Service Area)

Sullivan has been a controller for over 30 years. He started his career in the Navy. Currently he is a representative on the NATCA National Collaborative Workgroup where he works to create a culture of collaboration in the Eastern Region facilities between the NATCA representatives and the FAA managers. His calm demeanor, agreeable disposition, and soft-spoken voice instills trust in those he works with.

“Matt also takes the lead in mentoring the next generation,” said PCT FacRep Brandon Miller, who succeeded Sullivan as FacRep. “I am a byproduct of Matt’s leadership and guidance. He taught me the standard of what was expected of me as a leader. Matt provided the scaffolding necessary to make me successful. He understands the importance of making people feel valued for their contributions as well as appreciated for the sacrifices they make. He exemplifies ‘the others before self’ mentality that is becoming rare in our society.

“He is an example for all, young and old alike, to try and emulate in our profession. There is no one more deserving of this recognition.”

Sullivan’s peers and co-workers had this to say in the nomination materials for the award:

“Matt Sullivan could be considered the definition of Professional Standards. Matt is always looking for the best solution to advance the safe operation of the National Airspace System (NAS) whether it be through collaboration and teamwork, or through his leadership both within NATCA and the FAA. Matt is always willing to listen to concerns, gather additional information and to attack issues in a professional, balanced manner. Matt’s sacrifice, dedication, and desire to improve the NAS are second to none.”

“Matt has always been friendly, positive, and an example of who we could all become.”

“Matt Sullivan was one of the first people to welcome me to Potomac TRACON when I started working here five years ago. His friendly, helpful personality struck me immediately. Even though he was busy with several obligations as the facility representative, he took the time to get to know me personally and made sure I had everything I needed to be successful in training and to make the transition to living in a new part of the country.”

“As I got to know Matt over the next few years, I saw him exemplify professionalism during good times and bad. He modeled collaborative decision-making with management. When there were issues within the bargaining unit, he emphasized the importance of treating everyone fairly. His responses were measured and savvy, reflecting years of wisdom and the highest regard for safety.”

“He built his reputation through years of establishing positive relationships and doing his job with the highest level of professionalism. He is well respected among his peers and is always willing to share his knowledge to those who ask.”

“I consider Matt a mentor. He has gone out of his way to put me in positions to be successful in my career. He has shown me that leadership does not require a heavy-handed approach. Instead, it requires leading by example, looking out for the best interests of the team, and finding ways to help everyone succeed.”

“He is someone who truly deserves the recognition from our peers to show their appreciation for all that he has done for our NATCA members and those that work with NATCA. Matt deserves to be recognized for this award and his life-long professionalism representing NATCA and the FAA throughout his career. This dedication to his job, his friends and his family is inspirational to all. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of a Professional Standards Award than Matt Sullivan.”

Watch award presentation below.

2017: Nathan Holmberg, Indianapolis Center (Central Service Area)

Holmberg has been a controller at ZID for 16 years and has his private pilot’s license. The accolades from his co-workers were numerous and his peers had much to say.

NATCA PSC member Garth Koleszar relayed some of the praise from the nomination submitted for Holmberg.

“I was immediately impressed by how passionate he is about his air traffic work, but also his overall work ethic in all aspects,” one of Holmberg’s peers wrote. “I am sure that if you ask anyone who has worked with him, there is not a better air traffic controller and no one that cares about the overall job more than Nate. It is easy to see when new employees start training in his area that Nate is someone who they strive to emulate. By not only working traffic in a professional manner, but by also handling all aspects of the job in the same way, it makes those around him feel that they should strive to do their best as well. I feel the most impressive thing about Nate is the motivation behind the professionalism.”

Holmberg’s Front Line Manager also had great things to say about him. He wrote:

I have had the pleasure of supervising Nathan Holmberg since January 2014. It is my opinion that there is not a better air traffic controller within the FAA. Nathan prides himself on achieving and maintaining the highest of personal and professional standards.

As a controller, Nathan’s attitude and abilities far exceed all expectations. His phraseology is consistently exemplary. His ability to work traffic is at the top of the profession. The safety and efficiency of the agency are items that Nathan works daily to maintain. Nathan is the controller you want in the area if his fellow controller or supervisor needs assistance or has a question. As an on the job trainer, Nathan teaches developmentals the foundations and expectations. He then makes it his priority to guide them through the training process to achieve success. Nathan accepts nothing less than the best a developmental is capable of demonstrating.

Without fail, Nathan exhibits his professionalism while performing his duties. In my 24 years of experience in the air traffic control career field, I have never worked with such an outstanding individual as Nathan Holmberg. I cannot convey strongly enough his sense of pride and professionalism.

Other peers also weighed in with their praise:

Nate’s knowledge and professionalism in the operational area is a huge advantage to our entire team. Nate is often sought after for answers to questions that come up about proper operational procedures. Along with his undeniable talent, Nate has always been an absolute joy to work with.

Nate is a true team player, and always manages to foster positive discussions and bring the best out of other employees. As a dedicated and knowledgeable employee and an all-around great person, I can always count on Nate to demonstrate complete professionalism in every aspect of his job. He is a walking 7110.65. He takes the job seriously and comes in every day ready to work. He is one of the most even-keeled controllers you will ever meet.

Watch award presentation below.

2017: Aaron Rose, Seattle Center (Western Service Area)

Rose, who recently transferred to ZSE after working at Seattle TRACON (S46), was also nominated for the award in 2015, becoming the first repeat submission.

“Last year Aaron was submitted by an entirely separate group of individuals, which speaks volumes about his impact,” said PSC member Garth Koleszar. “Aaron is a NATCA PSC member and his outreach with the user community was evident in the testimonials submitted by several user groups.”

Rose has organized briefings at Western Airpark (Yelm, Wash.), Rainier Flight Service (KRNT), Galvin’s Aviation (KBFI), Regal Air (KPAE), the Washington Pilots Association Annual Banquet, Flyers Club Meeting (KPWT), Northwest Paragliding Club (Tiger Mountain, Wash.), Modern Pilot (Ballard, Wash.), Operation Raincheck (Hosted by S46), Flights Above the Pacific Northwest (a local aviation Facebook community with over 5,400 members) and, most recently, with the Seattle hub Delta pilots at their local regional meeting. There, they discussed such safety issues as runway assignments, lasers, unmanned aircraft systems, separation on final, and other rules.

Rose has also traveled to local airshows and to the Northwest Aviation Trade Show (Puyallup, Wash.) to provide presentations and answer questions.

Aaron’s work with these entities has been instrumental in moving the safety culture of the Northwest Mountain Region in a positive direction, Koleszar said.

“Because of Aaron’s work in 2015, he received an ‘Award of Special Recognition’ from the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association at their annual conference in Denver,” Koleszar said.

One of his previous co-workers had this to say about Rose:

“Aaron Rose is an exemplary employee who always exudes professionalism in every facet of this job. He is always there to help his peers in a respectful manner. He radiates confidence and is a trusted leader in his role as a member of the local safety council. He also displays a high degree of courage with his ability to tactfully coach upward. He has no problem pointing out his weaknesses which gives him the latitude to evolve them into strengths.”

Watch award presentation below.

2016: Dave Fournier, Memphis Center (Eastern Service Area)

Fournier arrived at ZME in 1988, where his peers immediately recognized his professionalism. He has been described as an “inspirational, dependable, meaningful, and adaptive leader,” by the numerous testimonials submitted on his behalf. He has demonstrated respect, integrity, knowledge, honesty, and professionalism each day he was on position through his retirement on Jan. 31, 2016.

“Dave is like the professional athlete that makes everyone around him better,” one of his co-workers writes. “He is the baseball pitcher that keeps working the batter during an extended inning at bat, and does not stop or quit until he has that final out. Of course in this scenario, David’s final out is to bring the utmost professionalism no matter the circumstance, and to hopefully spread that to as many people as he possibly can.”

Watch award presentation below.

2016: Randy Clark, Kansas City ATCT (Central Service Area)

Clark has been at MCI since 1996. Since then, he has been a team lead at EAA OshKosh AirVenture and has worked Sun ‘n Fun, and aviation education fly-in and expo. His co-workers say they have “not seen his knowledge or passion for air traffic control exceeded.” He mentors others, accepting nothing but the best, and demonstrates a professional commitment of performing at 100 percent every day. He is consistently the first available and the last to leave the room. His drive and focus have truly created a professional environment that is taken to heart by his fellow controllers.

Watch award presentation below.

2016: Dan Rossmango, Los Angeles Center (Western Service Area)

Rossmango has over 26 years of experience as a controller at ZLA. He is a sought after on-the-job-training instructor and continues to set the bar high for the individuals he instructs. In 2015, NATCA ZLA bestowed Mr. Rossmango with the facility’s “Controller of the Year” award. His everyday actions have established him as a mentor not only for the controllers he trains, but also for all the controllers who work beside him.

Watch award presentation below.

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