When most people enter the federal service, no one really knows where their career is going to take them, especially not Alethia Futtrell who at a young age had aspirations of becoming a nun in New York City. She soon learned that the distinctive scapular and cowl were not among her optimum selection for clothing. Then, while in grade school she realized she didn’t care for the gruff, stern voice of her parochial school teacher so, she gave thought to becoming a doctor. After taking some science courses, Alethia soon realized that she and the periodic table didn’t interact well together, and that there must be something better out there for her to pursue.
Alethia’s first job was as a nurse’s aide at Queens General Municipal Hospital in New York City. She enjoyed helping the patients but bedpan disposal was another story. It was traits of honesty, sincerity, being considerate and respectful that Alethia learned to value the most. In 1963, she swore in as a federal employee for the United States Post Office working as a Distribution Clerk at JFK Airport in New York. She soon advanced to the Time and Attendance Clerk at the same facility. In February of 1978, Alethia began her career as a GS-5 with the FAA working at the Tri-State Airport (HTS) in Huntington, West Virginia as a Flight Service Station Specialist and Air Traffic Control Specialist. Alethia attended Marshall University in West Virginia and obtained a Bachelor of the Arts. Among one of her most memorable experiences was attaining her undergraduate degree. She then transferred to Islip Airport on Long Island working in the same capacities. In 1984, Alethia saw an opportunity to become an instructor at the FAA Academy at the Aeronautical Center, teaching about the Flight Service Stations and Air Traffic Control systems. Her career continued to progress as she helped with curriculum revision and development. She became a Staff Specialist and eventually obtained a Master of Science degree from Oklahoma State University. Alethia asserts that one of her biggest accomplishments was reaching full performance level in her air traffic control specialist position, and being grateful for every promotion and award she’s earned since then.
All her life, Alethia has loved to travel. In 1972, she made her first visit to Africa. Her plan was to stay for only two weeks but ended up staying two months (until her funds ran out.) Still today, she takes much joy in introducing people to West Africa and to date is credited with physically introducing at least 14 people to several West African countries. Alethia especially enjoys Rufisque, a city in Senegal, West Africa. It is from her travels and getting to know people of all cultures that Alethia received some of her best guidance, the importance of “listening to hear and understand.”
Alethia appreciates all the challenges in her life and in 2008, she obtained her PhD from Oklahoma State University with a 3.97 GPA. As her education continued, so did her career advancement. Staying employed with the FAA, Alethia became the Academy Flight Service Section Supervisor, was promoted to Branch Manager, then Advanced/Specialized, and Quality Assurance Branch Manager. Alethia continues to learn and meet challenges head on, as she enjoys getting involved in projects and looking at the bigger picture to see what can be added to accomplish something successfully.
Alethia continues to travel every chance she gets. She does enjoy several hobbies, such as providing design and layout via computer software, creating and improving items from old design, and the craft of exploring and researching.
With nearly 50 years of remarkable public service behind her, Alethia comments, “all yesterdays are only unchangeable reference points, and tomorrows are maybes.” For a woman who has always cared about the world and its people, the FAA is glad that Alethia choose to devote herself to a career in public service.