Lynn Army trailblazer represents recruiting campaign

Lt. Col. Marisol Chalas was the first Latina National Guard Black Hawk helicopter pilot. (Army Enterprise Marketing)

LYNN — After a three-decade military career, Lynn native Lt. Col. Marisol Chalas has been chosen to represent the United States Army’s new recruiting campaign.

The campaign, which is called “First Steps,” is meant to highlight the possibilities that being a member of the Army can open up, something that Chalas knows firsthand.

Chalas was born in the Dominican Republic before moving to Lynn with her family in 1982 when she was 9 years old.

She attended several of the city’s public schools before graduating from Lynn Classical High School in 1991, joining the National Guard before her senior year. 

“Lynn was my foundation. I am grateful that I grew up in Lynn,” Chalas said. “I am grateful for the diversity we had and all walks of life.”

Chalas went on to earn her degree in marine engineering from Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1996 and now sits on the academy’s Board of Trustees.

After one of her mentors at Massachusetts Maritime sent her resume to General Electric, Chalas was hired and moved to California while continuing her membership with the National Guard.

According to Chalas, over the course of her 33-year career she served at bases all over the country as a member of the National Guard and later the Army Reserves, where she currently works as a garrison commander at Camp Parks in Northern California.

She also went abroad in her career, including a deployment in Iraq, two years stationed in Canada, and later to do humanitarian work in the Dominican Republic, an experience she said was one of the most important of her career.

“I’ve had some amazing assignments with the military,” Chalas said. “That one is definitely up near the top, being able to represent the two flags that I hold dear to my heart.”

Looking back at her journey, Chalas said she’s amazed at how many places she has been and the things she has done.

“Every time I hear it out loud it gives me goosebumps,” she said.

Including her military accomplishments, Chalas has also forged a lengthy academic resume.

She completed a congressional fellowship at the Pentagon while attending George Washington University, where she obtained a master’s degree in political science. She also earned a Master of Business Administration from Georgia State University and a master’s in strategic science from the Army War College.

Chalas’ career also featured a trailblazing achievement, as she was the first Latina National Guard Black Hawk helicopter pilot.

“I didn’t know I was the first one,” Chalas said. “I hope that other young females, whether they’re from Lynn or not … can look at me and say ‘I can be like Marisol.’”

Chalas pointed out that General Electric in Lynn actually builds the 701700 engines, which are used in the Black Hawk helicopter.

She said she’s incredibly proud of her Lynn roots and hopes that young people, especially those from immigrant communities, will relate to her story and be inspired by her achievements here in the United States.

She added that despite dealing with failures and skepticism from others throughout her career, it is important for young people who want to be trailblazers like her to stay headstrong and take advantage of the resources available to them.

“Be persistent and be resilient,” Chalas said. “The opportunities are there. If you want something, go after it.”

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