Army National Guard Pilot Reaches Lofty Heights
Ever since she was a little girl in Mexico, Army 2nd Lt. Liliana Chavez knew she wanted to fly. In high school, she joined the Junior ROTC, and her path was set.
The 24-year-old aeromedical evacuation officer achieved that lofty goal, flying UH-60 Black Hawk and UH-72A Lakota helicopters for the Texas Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment.
At the University of Texas Pan-American, Chavez joined the ROTC program and went up for the aviation board. She was chosen, and attended the grueling 21-day survival, evasion, resistance and escape training (SERE) that all pilots and Special Forces members must pass.
The philosophy behind SERE is that every member of an aircrew must be able to survive on their own in any environment under any condition should their aircraft go down. SERE specialists teach Airmen everything they need to know to do just that. From building shelters and procuring water to land navigation and evasion techniques, these highly trained experts impart the skills needed for Airmen to survive on their own and evade the enemy until they can be rescued and brought home.
“It was tough, but I always had a positive attitude,” she said. “I tried to sing and make something positive out of a crappy situation.”
“I came here as a permanent resident,” Chavez said. “My dad worked his butt off to get us all here the correct, legal way.”
Her moral compass and work ethic are guided by her father’s example.
“I always stop to sit down and think, ‘Would this make my dad proud?'” Chavez said.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Chavez has plans to go back to school for earth and coastal sciences, diving and studying earth forms. “I want to be an astronaut too, one day” Chavez said.
Chavez’s message to the young girls who hope to emulate her?
“I’d tell them don’t limit yourself. The sky is actually not the limit — you can be an astronaut if you want to.”