For Ronan Lasso, MS2, medical school has taken a strange twist.
Have you missed him in class this quarter? Read on to discover
In 1990, Ronan enrolled in Officer Training School with the U.S.
Marines; by 1996, he had attained the rank of Captain and served
as a UH-1N Helicopter Pilot. Upon completion of active duty, he
became a Marine Reservist and, in due time, entered UCSD School
However, before the end of fall quarter 2003, Ronan was informed
that his reserve unit was being called to active duty at the start
of the new year (2004). This turn of events has not only interrupted
his medical school career and his home life (he’s married),
but it has landed him smack dab in the Middle East (specifically,
The following “email interview” gives us a glimpse
of how Ronan will be occupying his time while on active duty.
Keep him in your thoughts, and remember to thank him upon his
return for his service to our country as he does his part in protecting
the freedom that we as Americans enjoy.
Q: What were your reasons for joining the military, and
particularly the Marines?
A: This is a difficult question to answer concisely
without sounding cliché. I joined the military for a wide
variety of reasons, some of which are the same reasons I am pursuing
a career in medicine. I was drawn to it out of a desire to pursue
something that would be challenging, exciting and adventurous,
and at the same time would allow me to serve our country and give
me the sense that I was doing something important. I was specifically
drawn to military aviation and to the Marine Corps in particular.
Military aviation was something that fascinated me from as far
back as my early childhood. As a kid, I enjoyed building models
and drawing pictures of aircraft, going to air shows, and reading
books about military aviation. The Marine Corps was particularly
appealing because of its reputation for being a small, tightly-knit
organization with the highest standards and a reputation for being
the most challenging. I was also drawn toward the Marine Corps
because of the thorough infantry training that Marines get before
they branch off into their respective specialties. Again, I joined
because I was looking for a challenge that would give me the sense
of accomplishment that I desired while allowing me to do something
that I felt was patriotic.
Q: What is your rank, and in what capacity do you serve?
A: My rank is Major, which I’ve held since
April, 2003, and I currently serve as an AH-1W Supercobra (attack
helicopter) pilot. I am also qualified to pilot the UH-1N Huey
which I flew while on active duty.
Q: How do you train for the "mission" you
have been called to do?
A: Training for the mission includes preparing for and
flying training flights regularly, even when we are normally in
a reserve status. While in reserve status, the reservists’
obligation is to attend the standard drill periods that occur
one weekend every month and for two weeks in the summer. During
that time both flight training and ground training (physical fitness,
rifle, pistol training, etc.) is accomplished. Additionally, reserve
pilots come in to train several other times a month to do additional
flight training to satisfy the minimum training requirements to
maintain flying and tactical proficiency. Some of the training
that cannot be adequately performed in the aircraft (such as in-flight
emergencies) is accomplished in a full-motion simulator with “wrap-around/surround”
visuals. All Marine Reserve pilots spent at least 7-8 years flying
on active duty before separating and joining the reserves.
Q: How long will this tour of active duty last?
A: I expect to be on active duty for a maximum of a year,
with 7 months spent in Iraq.
Q: Where are you headed?
A: We are going to Iraq, and our area of operation will
include the region of western Baghdad, Fallujah, Ar-Ramadi and
everything else out to the western and southwestern borders.
Q: Personally, how do you feel about this interruption
in medical school?
A: I wish I could have completed my second year and taken
Step 1 of the USMLE before being activated, however, I feel fortunate
that I was able to finish the fall quarter. I plan on doing review
work in my free time while in Iraq, and when I return in October,
I hope to be able to spend time working on my ISP. One benefit
is that I have gone back to earning a salary that I can use to
offset the increase in tuition and fees that has occurred over
the last year.
Q: Is this an anxious time for you and your wife and other
A: There is some stress that comes with this deployment
for my wife and my family. My wife and I have been married for
over 8 years now, and she has been through two of my six-month
routine deployments while I was on active duty. Despite her concerns,
she is, and always has been, very supportive. I rely upon her
for many things - from moral support to keeping things up and
running while I'm gone. Oddly enough, even though we are separated
during the deployments, they tend to reinforce our feelings of
how important we are to each other and insure that we do not take
each other for granted. Even so, being away for such a long period
of time is difficult and we will really miss each other. As for
my family, my mother is particularly worried, but on the whole
they are taking it in stride.
Q: What will you draw upon the most to see you through
this potentially risky mission?
A: I will rely on the years of training that I have received,
as well as the high level of confidence I have in my squadron.
One benefit of being in a Marine Reserve squadron is that the
level of experience is actually much higher than that of a typical
active duty squadron because all of the pilots have many years
of active duty experience before becoming reservists.
To all medical students:
You are invited to drop Ronan a line, either “snail mail”
or Email. Although he does have periodic computer access, it is
usually for 15-minute intervals only; he may not always be able
to reply quickly. Any correspondence from the homefront will be
His current contact information is:
Maj RJ Lasso
FPO AP 96426-2075