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It’s not every day that you get to hear from a speaker who is as unique as Lt. Col. Marisol A. Chalas. But that opportunity arrived at Las Positas on Thursday, March 28 when she came to speak on her journey during the Honoring Women Veterans event held on campus in room 2401 of the 2400 building.

She spoke in front of a large group of mostly veterans, students, staff and their family members here in school. She shared her life story and experiences, hoping to be an inspiration and to show people how to better deal with the challenging events that never cease to exist in each and everyone’s lives. As a role model, Chalas’ message carries what it means to be committed to one’s mission and goals, while also valuing the sacrifices made by the people who care for us most.

Chalas is a pioneering figure in the Hispanic Women community, as she became the first Latina National Guard Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the history of the U.S. Army. She serves to be an inspiration to students and veterans on campus, especially those who are aspiring to have a career in the military, particularly in the field of aviation. Chalas served as a Legislative Assistant to the 37th Vice Chief of Staff of the Army for almost two years and occupied several senior leadership positions at GE Energy for three years. The life story she shared exemplifies the importance of persevering through adversity. Her leadership skills demonstrated throughout her distinguished and notable career serve as a testament to other young women who can learn and look up to the example set by Chalas. 

Chalas was born in Bani, Dominican Republic, but moved to the United States when she was nine years old along with her sisters. Here, they were reunited with their parents after a two-year separation, necessary while their parents got situated in Boston, Massachusetts. Her parents faced many challenges upon initially arriving in the United States, being that they were relatively new in town and weren’t very familiar with American culture. The sacrifices that Chalas’ parents made early on in her life continue to guide her by becoming a reminder that determination is key to the path toward success.

“In retrospect, I could not imagine the pain and loneliness they must have felt leaving their kids and loved ones behind to start a new life,” Chalas said in her speech. “Not knowing what the future had in store or when they will be reunited with their daughters.”

LT. COL. MARISOL A. CHALAS, the National Guard’s first Latina pilot of a Black Hawk helicopter, delivered a speech at Las Positas highlighting her journey.

Her speech focuses primarily on the positive results brought to those who remain committed and determined toward their dreams, personal goals, and missions in life. Persevering through any hardships that may come our way as we work towards these goals is only part of the process. Chalas hopes that by sharing her story of facing trials and tribulations, not only as an immigrant but also as a woman pilot, will set an example to all to not allow adversity to hinder them from achieving lifelong dreams and goals. 

Evelyn Andrews, the Veterans Program Supervisor, said, “Her story of resilience as a first-generation Latina woman was powerful and inspirational.”

Chalas is the current Garrison Commander for the U.S. Army Parks Reserve Forces Training Area, more commonly known as Camp Parks, here in Dublin, California, where she has been since May 31, 2022. She started her career by relocating to Georgia after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Marine Engineering at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Chalas was able to attend the Officer Candidate School (OCS) program there and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Aviation branch from the Georgia Military Institute’s Officer Candidate School located at the Clay Army National Guard Center. Soon after, Chalas attended the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Novosel (formerly known as Fort Rucker) in Alabama, graduating among the top in her class of 3,000 other pilots. Out of all those Black Hawk pilots, Chalas was one of just 120 women.

 “Flight school was fun and challenging,” Chalas said. “I had to work hard. I had to overcome self-doubt, but not only did I graduate, I graduated as one of the top students.”

But being a top performer didn’t get rid of those who doubted her. Throughout her journey, she was forced to deal with people who looked down on her abilities simply because she was a woman, creating challenges that made her doubt herself and her abilities. Some of these challenges include how one of her team members was quick to disregard her opinions at General Electric’s Nuclear Technical Leadership Program. Another instance was the time she spent in flight school down at Fort Rucker, Alabama. She was told by one of her instructors that females wouldn’t understand the mechanics of flying as fast as their male counterparts. 

Chalas never let the negativity get to her. She knew who she was and what she could accomplish if she just remained resilient and committed to her goals. This is a lesson she hopes to pass on to the next generation.

“I share my life story with you not to dwell on the negative,” Chalas said, “but to celebrate what commitment and determination can do.”

Francis Kennedy is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him on X, formally Twitter  @FRANCISK16571.

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