UCSD School of Medicine
Interview with Ronan Lasso - Marine Reservist

For Ronan Lasso, MS2, medical school has taken a strange twist. Have you missed him in class this quarter? Read on to discover why.

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 of Medicine.

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, Iraq).

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?
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?
I expect to be on active duty for a maximum of a year, with 7 months spent in Iraq.

Q: Where are you headed?
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?
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 family members?
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?
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 greatly welcomed!

His current contact information is:
(U.S. Mail)
Maj RJ Lasso
UIC 42075
FPO AP 96426-2075

rlasso@ucsd.edu (temporarily)

Thank you Ronan for your service!

Last Modified 03/04
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