APA’s Family Awareness Committee – What We Do Best

Clockwise from left: FO Melissa Monahan, CA Jerry Gemma, Compass Project Committee Chair CA Mark Erickson, LAX Domicile Vice Chair CA Tim Dick, APA Vice President CA Chris Torres, Jen Johnson, and CA Tim Jackson

The holidays are approaching, and with them come holiday parties. And while parties are the APA Family Awareness Committee’s specialty, they do so much more.

“In the past, Family Awareness was always known as the party crowd,” Chair CA Jerry Gemma says. “But we’re turning it into more of a resource.”

Deputy Chair FO Melissa Monahan says the committee hosts events on the local level – in our domicile cities, of course, but also in commuter cities such as AUS, LAS, and PIT – to help pilots get to know each other.

“If you’re on the 737, I might never meet you because I’m on the 787,” FO Monahan says. “And we build a sense of community within that. When times get tough – like during contract negotiations or after natural disasters – if you brought your family to these events, then they have a sense of family. They have a network.”

More than 600 pilots and guests gathered at a Texas Rangers game in June.

We all know that when we put on our uniform and walk out the door, our lives at work can be a mystery to our families. By meeting with other families at APA events, our spouses and partners can build a support structure with each other.

“They gain knowledge and understanding about what we do and how tough it is for us,” CA Gemma says. “We gain the knowledge with how tough it is on our families when we leave. But having that sense of community and knowing that your family is taken care of makes the job easier.”

Two of the goals for every Family Awareness event are education and transparency. That’s why the committee invites elected National Officers and Domicile Officers as well as volunteers from other national committees – such as Aeromedical and Government Affairs – so members have a chance to learn what’s going on behind the scenes at APA.

“We want to create a sense of transparency within the union,” CA Gemma says. “When we host these parties, we really push to have the Board and committee members attend. That way the pilots can find out who they are and what they’re about. Building unity and transparency, getting the message out: That’s Family Awareness.”  

CA Daniel Alexander was honored with a Fini Flight celebration at DFW on Nov. 19.

However, CA Gemma and FO Monahan want the membership to understand that Family Awareness is more than just hosting parties. The committee oversees the Fini Flight celebrations to honor our retiring pilots, and they also recently initiated a new program called Critical Pilot Response, also known as CPR.

“We wanted to facilitate pilot-to-pilot assistance,” CA Gemma says. “If someone needed help, they could reach out to some who can give that help, especially if there is a natural disaster like a hurricane or a fire. We’ll reach out and put together a list of who needs help. We’re taking care of each other as a community.”

CA Gemma says other airline unions are starting to see what APA Family Awareness is doing and following our lead.

“A few years ago, I was anti-APA altogether,” he says. “But I volunteered, got involved, and now I get to see firsthand the changes that are being made. I fully believe in APA.”