A John F. Kennedy High School and University of Guam graduate is now one of the Army’s newest Apache helicopter pilots.
Now Lt. Elijah Iruul Funes Solang, formerly of Dededo, graduated from the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence in Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Piloting has been a lifelong dream for Solang. He posted a photograph of a Wettengel Elementary School yearbook page where he clearly states his goal: “To become a pilot in the Air Force.”
He didn't end up in the branch he’d imagined as a child, but it's a dream well-earned.
“Life update, finally graduated flight school. I have wanted to be a pilot since elementary and by the grace of God it’s happened,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Extremely grateful for my family and friends who have continuously supported me throughout the process. Thanks to my master sergeant who pinned my wings on me and for my mom and siblings that flew out to see it all happen. Next stop is Korea.”
He was one of two graduates who were certified to fly the Apache helicopter, according to his mom Diana Funes Solang. She also noted that he is the first Guam resident to be accepted into the aviation school in almost 20 years.
Lt. Solang comes from a family of patriots, his dad served in the Marine Corps, he has uncles in the Army, Air Force Reserve, and Navy, as well as cousins who serve in the military as well.
He is the sixth of eight children of Roland Steve Solang and Diana Funes Solang. He is the grandson of Josefa Untalan Funes and Frank Funes from Dededo, formerly of Radio Barrigada; and Ridep Solang and Tokie Kebekol Solang of Palau who settled in Dededo.
Lt. Solang started his track to the military as a Junior ROTC cadet at McKinley High School while living in Honolulu.
He finished high school at John F. Kennedy High School and went on to attend the University of Guam where he continued with the ROTC program. In 2019, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in military science.
After graduation, he successfully applied to the aviation program at Fort Rucker. Lt. Solang, who also recently celebrated his 24th birthday, is currently stationed in South Korea.