November 29, 2018

Profile: Aaron and Dan Schilleci

Aaron Schilleci (left) with brother Dan(right) in Iraq. (Source: NMAJMH)

Brothers Aaron and Dan Schilleci from California both joined the United States Army. They both studied history at UCLA, and joined the Army through the ROTC program in college. Aaron commissioned in 2001 for active duty, and Dan commissioned as a reservist in 2004. The Schilleci brothers both deployed overseas at the same time, and were even able to see each other on multiple occasions. When they first flew to Kuwait they arrived only one week apart from each other in July 2006. Then in October 2006, Aaron was able to travel from Kuwait to Iraq to celebrate Dan’s birthday.

Aaron and Dan had very different experiences overseas though. Aaron Schilleci was a pilot for the Army, and has logged over 1,000 flight hours so far. In the 25 months that he was deployed, Aaron was not injured by the enemy in any of his flight missions. He partly attributes this to a kipah that he received from an Israeli IDF officer. He recalls,

“I was given an IDF kipah by an Israeli apache helicopter battalion commander I came across. I wore the kipah under my flight helmet on every single combat flight I have ever flown to date…The symbolism of this whole ritual was meaningful to me in so many ways. I used to think of the kipah as some type of spiritual helmet to wear into battle so I would remain untouched by al Qaeda and the Taliban. and sure enough, by grace and luck, I was never wounded by enemy fire.”

Dan Schilleci’s experiences were not always as pleasant as his brother’s though. He was a First Lieutenant in Iraq, responsible for vehicle convoy. This means he had to see Army trucks and helicopters safely to their final destination, and make sure they made it with all of the equipment they were transporting. For safety reasons, this could only happen at night.

Less than a week after Aaron’s October visit, Dan was working on a convoy when his truck unexpectedly hit a roadside bomb. Dan suffered a concussion and was only semi-conscious after the impact. Even so, he was able to quickly call for air support to ensure the safety of the convoy and his soldiers. Dan was later presented with the Bronze Star for his timely and efficient actions.

Aaron and Dan Schilleci still share a close bond. Both continue to be actively involved in the military today.