Major Marisol Chalas, U.S. Army Black Hawk pilot: "We learned very young that in order to be successful you have to work hard at it, nothing is handed to you."

by Jess Clackum

Major Chalas poses for a photo overlooking the Dominican Republic as part of International Women's Day and a book by Giovanna Bonnelly & Nicole Sanchez titled Mujer, which features 100 Dominican Women who have been trailblazers and opened doors for others to follow. (Photo: Nicole Sanchez)

Major Chalas poses for a photo overlooking the Dominican Republic as part of International Women's Day and a book by Giovanna Bonnelly & Nicole Sanchez titled Mujer, which features 100 Dominican Women who have been trailblazers and opened doors for others to follow. (Photo: Nicole Sanchez)

Major Marisol A. Chalas, decorated pilot with nearly 26 years of service, was born in Bani, Dominican Republic and at age nine, moved with her family to the U.S. to reside in Massachusetts. Chalas's parents were her greatest role models, often working two jobs each to take care of their children.  She says, “We learned very young that in order to be successful you have to work hard at it, nothing is handed to you.” 

Chalas followed her parents example and when times got tough after her freshman year at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, she left for a time in order to work. She put in more hours on weekends than most people put in during the week just to make ends meet. When she returned to school, she successfully completed her Bachelor's Degree and went to work for General Electric.

When Chalas was in flight school only 120 of the 3,000 Black Hawk pilots were women. (Photo credit: Marisol Chalas)

When Chalas was in flight school only 120 of the 3,000 Black Hawk pilots were women. (Photo credit: Marisol Chalas)

Major Chalas began her military career as an enlisted soldier in the Army in July 1990.  She was among the top graduates at Fort Rucker Army Aviation School and in 2001 received her commission as Second Lieutenant in the Aviation branch from the Georgia Military Institute Officer Candidate School. She has served in various leadership positions, including Lean Six Sigma advisor (Lean Six is a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance through a number of initiatives), Battle Captain and Platoon Leader during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Aviation Liaison Officer with the Combined Joint Task Force for the New Horizons Humanitarian Assistance project in Barahona, Dominican Republic. In addition she has served as Aviation Readiness Officer and Company Commander with FORSCOM (US Army Forces Command) as well as Aviation Force Integrator for USARC (US Army Reserve Command) G-3/5/7 Aviation Directorate.

Major Chalas has an extensive corporate career record with vast international experience. She worked for General Electric for eleven years in a number of management positions. She spent time in Latin America, Asia and Europe and graduated from GE's Nuclear Technical Leadership Program. She also served as a Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, a global firm which provides management and technology consulting and engineering services to Fortune 500 corporations, governments and not-for-profit agencies. 

Chalas received her Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering from Massachusetts Maritime Academy (where she currently serves as member of the Board of Trustees) and a Master of Business Administration from J. Mack Robinson School of Business, Georgia State University. She is a certified Lean and Six Sigma Black Belt and a member of the National Scholars Honor Society and recently completed the Strategic Fellows Program at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC.

 (Photo: Marisol Chalas)

 (Photo: Marisol Chalas)

Chalas is the Battalions Operations Officer for 1-158th Aviation Regiment in Conroe, Texas and currently serving as a member of the Congressional Staff on Capitol Hill as part of the Army Congressional Fellowship Program which began in May 2016 and ends in December 2017. During this time she is also working on her Masters in Legislative Affairs from George Washington University.

Major Chalas is indebted to the WASP for the opportunities their service opened up for her. 

“Every time I read how this project began and how it has evolved I get goose bumps. These women are extraordinary, driven and true heroes. Thanks to these pioneers and trailblazers who found ways to follow their dreams and make them reality even when they were told 'no', I today can serve as a pilot in the Armed Forces. I salute and thank each of them for their persistence and perseverance."