News | Oct. 28, 2019

First Latina Black Hawk helicopter pilot carries message of strength through diversity, equality

By Staff National Reconnaissance Office

Chantilly, Va. (Oct. 10, 2019) - The first Latina Black Hawk helicopter pilot spoke to the National Reconnaissance Office at their headquarters here Wednesday and her message was as clear as it was simple: dignity and respect bring about strength and success.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Marisol Chalas is the first Latina Black Hawk helicopter pilot and daughter of Dominican Republic immigrants. With three decades of honorable service, Chalas has continually served in positions of leadership giving her a unique perspective on the benefits of equality and inclusion. She spoke about the tremendous contributions made by Hispanic Americans to the United States.

“Hispanic Americans make up the blueprint of a diverse and unique culture,” said Chalas. “They have often made gut-wrenching sacrifices, faced isolation, experienced persecution, and dealt with discrimination, all to make a new life for themselves and their families.”

Chalas, the current legislative assistant to the Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army touted Hispanic Americans’ tireless efforts to chase the American Dream by using the past to influence the future.  

“[Hispanic American] contributions not only add to the diversity of this nation but also strengthen the American culture,” she said. 

Speaking about the heroic sacrifices of Hispanic American service members, Chalas spoke of the 65th Infantry Regiment, which was nicknamed ‘The Borinqueneers’ from the original Taino name of the island Borinquen.  The unit was predominantly a Puerto Rican regiment of the United States Army that fought during both World Wars and the Korean War as the only active duty segregated Hispanic military unit.  These soldiers not only faced segregation and discrimination, but were also awarded far too late for their courage, valor, and sacrifice in combat.  Chalas entreated the audience to remember these Americans when the audience honors past American heroes.

With regard to her personal journey as a Hispanic American, Chalas attributed her success to the influence and support of her family, friends, and mentors.  She is a proud Hispanic American who has achieved the American Dream.

As she parted, Chalas left the audience with a challenge.  She asked the NRO workforce to be leaders in their communities and to take charge of their lives and give back to those around them through volunteering, mentoring, and coaching.

“We are stronger because of diversity,” said Chalas. “We must strive for equality.”