Hispanic Heritage Month: The first Latina to fly a combat helicopter in the US is a Dominican immigrant
Photo: Rose Mary Santana/US Army/Courtesy
Marisol Chalasa lieutenant colonel in the US National Guard, is the first Latin woman to pilot the imposing Black Hawk combat helicopters. His story is a source of inspiration and education for those who come to this country, where Chalas has really managed to reach the sky.
Marisol A. Chalas, a United States Air Force pilot with more than 30 years of service, was born in Bani, Dominican Republic, and at the age of nine she moved with her family to the United States, to reside in Massachusetts.
Chalas’ parents were her best role models, often working two jobs each to care for their children. Chalas says: “We learned very young that to be successful you have to work hard, they don’t give you anything.”
Chalas began her military career as an enlisted soldier in the Army in July 1990. She was a top graduate of the Fort Rucker Army Aviation School and in 2001 received her commission as a second lieutenant in the Aviation branch of the Georgia Military Institute Officer Candidate School.
Since joining the National Guard in 2001, passing tests, became first in her class at the United States Army Aviation School in Alabamawhere she obtained more than 12 awards for her skills and was recognized as an Advanced Aviator Pilot.
During her arduous training, she competed with at least 3,000 pilots and only 120 women to become the first combat helicopter pilot and confesses that she sometimes faced discrimination for being a woman.
In an interview, Chalas said that on one occasion she heard one of her instructors say that “it takes women longer to learn how to fly a plane”, and she assures that this was the “inspiring spark plug” that propelled her to achieve her goal of being the first Latina woman to fly a Black Hawk.
Lt. Col. Marisol A. Chalas has operational and strategic experience at the US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) and Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA) levels. Lt. Col. Chalas’ international roles include Battle Captain and Platoon Leader.
Chalas says she feels “grateful to God, her family and the United States” for the privilege of being able to serve his nation. “I always pray to stay grounded and never forget my roots,” she said in an interview.
She is a Six Sigma karate black belt, was a frontline captain in “Iraqi Freedom”, and participated in Barahona, in the Southern Command’s “New Horizons” Program. In her extensive professional record, the lieutenant colonel has also been selected by the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Preparation Affairs, to participate in the Congressional Communion Program of the Army in Washington.
Chalas is a Combat Operations officer with the 1-158th Aviation Regiment in Conroe, Texas. He has served, among other duties, as a United States Reserve Exchange Officer with the Canadian Defense Forces and has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, of which he is a member, and an MBA from the George State University.
Lt. Col. Marisol Chalas is commander of the Parks Reserve Forces Training Area (PRFTA) Garrison and assumed command of PRFTA during a change of command ceremony on May 31, 2022. PRFTA is a sub-installation of Fort Hunter Liggett in Jolon, California.
The Parks Reserve Forces Training Area is a premier academic institution, military intelligence facility, and battlefield simulation center that supports military readiness for both the Army Reserve and the entire Joint Force .
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