Alumnus models well-rounded success


Photo courtesy of Ravi Chaudhary

Ravi Chaudhary, a CHHS grad, was recently hired in a prestigious US Air Force position.

A Columbia Heights High School (CHHS) alumnus is taking his life to new heights — literally. 

Ravi Chaudhary graduated from CHHS in 1988, at which point he decided to go into the Air Force Academy. Unfortunately, he didn’t get accepted right away, so he attended the University of Minnesota and was able to get a scholarship from the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. With that scholarship, he applied again to the Air Force Academy and was admitted!

Now, in 2023, almost 35 years later, Chaudhary is the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations and Environment. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy. After Chaudhary graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1993, he completed 21 years of service helping with a variety of assignments, some of which consisted of flying and engineering planes while other tasks included taking on various senior staff duties.

Chaudhary has completed combat missions stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also a part of ground deployment in Iraq as Director of the Personnel Recovery Center, which is an area that provides a safe space and area for people that are injured. Chaudhary and many others were in Iraq ready to help any citizens who needed assistance. He played a pivotal role in local and civilian-assisted injury recovery efforts. 

“I’ve flown to just about every continent in the world,” Chaudhary said. “Some days I had to pinch myself — gazing at the aurora borealis in the night sky while flying at 40,000 feet, seeing the curvature of the Earth while doing supersonic test runs in a fighter [and] practicing building the space station at Johnson Space Center with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) astronauts. It’s all just a blur.”

Although Chaudhary knew in advance that he was being promoted to the new role of Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations and Environment, he was just recently officially sworn in on April 7 at a ceremony held at the United States Pentagon. 

“My role is focused on ensuring we are energy efficient, our installations (or military bases) are ready and the environment is safe and clean,” Chaudhary said. “I work at the Pentagon, where we ensure the Air Force strategy is supported with good planning so that our airmen who are in the Air Force have the right tools to execute their important missions. It is my dream job to serve my nation at the Pentagon!” 

Chaudhary retired from active duty in the Air Force in 2015 and thought his time in the Air Force was done. Then, he received a call from the White House under President Joe Biden to come back and serve in the Air Force again. He is now a senior civilian at the Air Force. He is responsible for providing airmen and guardians with the best tools possible to do their jobs efficiently. Chaudhary is currently presenting the Air Force budget to Congress. He also receives information on big issues to do with Air Force Installations and leads a big staff full of military members and civilian experts that inform him about important decisions that need to be discussed or finalized. Chaudhary also makes recommendations to the Air Force Secretary that sometimes make their way all the way to President Biden. A lot of work and thought go into every aspect of this very important job.

Ravi Chaudhary isn’t the only Chaudhary from Heights doing great things in this world either. Dr. Bala Chaudhary, Ravi’s younger sister, graduated from CHHS in 1995. She’s a soil ecologist and associate professor who specializes in plant-soil-microbial interactions and mycorrhizal symbioses, which is the study of the kind of fungus that helps plants grow. She is a world-famous scientist at Dartmouth University and is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Chaudhary travels around the world trying her best to save our environment, thinking about and working towards ways to broaden scientific participation and growth in local communities. She works to promote racial and ethnic diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM as well.

Meanwhile, Ravi’s older brother Satveer Chaudhary graduated from CHHS in 1987. He went on to attend St. Olaf College and as an undergraduate, Satveer was a part of the student senate, the multicultural student association, political awareness committee organizer and greatly fought for student coalition. He then went on to formally serve in the Minnesota State Senate and become a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Now, Satveer is an American criminal and immigration lawyer. Satveer was the first ever Asian American to be elected to the legislature in Minnesota, which of course made history, and he also became one of the youngest and the highest ranked political officers of South Asian descent.