U.S. Army Major Marisol Chalas, who was raised in Lynn and rose from an enlisted soldier to be the first Latina woman to pilot a Black Hawk helicopter, gave an inspiring speech on Friday, Oct. 3 during the Lynn Veterans’ annual Women Veterans Day event.
Maj. Chalas noted in her speech that she faced “the same challenges” her male colleagues faced in becoming a Black Hawk pilot in the Army, but also faced other challenges as well.
Maj. Chalas noted that as an enlisted soldier in the Engineers division of the Army, she was told by one superior “I was too pretty to be an engineer.” Later, after she graduated officer candidate school and entered flight school, a male instructor informed her, “that women pilots take longer” to master their flight lessons.
Following flight school, Chalas said she was initially placed on desk duty, while her peers were busy flying daily. “Usually the first year after flight school is when you fly the most, so that you can get as much as experience as possible,” she noted. When she asked her superiors why she was not being given the same opportunities to practice and master her aircraft as her peers, “I was labeled as confrontational.”
Despite it all, Chalas persevered, noting that she took such slights as a challenge to “prove them wrong” and never let her detractors “give me an excuse.”
When Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy took to the podium to present Chalas with a Citation from the City of Lynn she noted, “reading (Maj. Chalas’) bio I thought to myself, I thought this woman is fierce. But now after hearing her speak, I had no idea how fierce she is.”
The annual Women’s Veterans Day event was a success and Lynners got a chance to learn about a woman who moved to the city as a child from her native Dominican Republic and rose to fly combat missions in a Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq.
Major Chalas was recently appointed to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.