Delmar pilot stays grounded

"We had no connections to this area at all or even New York for that matter, other than an aunt that lived in New York City." he said. "I would still be flying C-130s, but in a non-combat role. My schedule would be more predictable and that is imperative when you have five children."

After joining the 109th Airlift wing, Alston landed a job with US Airways as a 737 pilot, but that was shortlived.

"Nine-11 changed all that. I was furloughed, which is the airlines' word for laid off," he said.

At this point Alston had another bad-into-good moment.

He was hired full time as the 109th's community relations manager.

"The position is about outreach to the community. We are the liaison between the command and the local, business and political communities."

Through this, he wanted to be more involved. He got into the General Electric Junior Officer Leadership Program, which offers jobs to young officers and assigns them to different units of GE. The goal is to help the officer develop various leadership skills in various work environments within the company.

"This program was designed for young captains, and I was a major at that point," he said. "They called me Grampa."

Alston had three rotations at GE in communications, GE Foundation and human resources/union relations.

"We did some amazing things at GE, especially with relief efforts for the large earthquake and hurricane Katrina. I also had an eye-opening experience in human relations, understanding the complexities of union and management negotiations."

Alston eventually learned about a program through the Chamber of Schenectady County called Leadership Schenectady. The program connected local business leaders to all facets community life in Schenectady. When he graduated from the program, he was ready to give back.

Chuck Steiner, the president of the Chamber tapped Alston to co-chair a new program that merged the Schenectady program with the Albany Colonie Regional Chamber's. For two years, he co-chaired Leadership Tech Valley, and then became chairman of the Schenectady Foundation, which is the fundraising arm for the Chamber programs.

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