Photo courtesy of Everett Lilya
Everett Lilya receives his promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force amongst friends and family. (From left to right) Colin Lilya, Austin Mohl, Janalyn Lilya, Kenneth Suskin, Claudon Lilya (standing in back), Bea Suskin (seated in front), Sandy Lilya, Joanna Lilya, Shane Lilya and Mia Lilya.
Everett Lilya has led an exciting life. The Blackfoot High School graduate has flown planes, traveled around the world, and tested weapons. Currently, Lilya is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and serves as chief of operations and strategy for the U.S. European Command Liaison Office in the Pentagon.
Though Lilya enjoys his position in the Air Force, he did not always dream of joining the military. In fact, Lilya studied English at BYU with the intent of going to law school. However, Lilyaâ€™s plans changed after he looked into the Reserve Officersâ€™ Training Corps program at BYU as a way to pay for his education.
After examining Lilyaâ€™s grades, the recruiting officer asked Lilya if he wanted to go into pilot training. Lilya accepted this offer on the condition that he would not change his major. Fortunately, the military accepted this condition and paid Lilyaâ€™s tuition for his junior and senior years at BYU.
After Lilya graduated from BYU, he attended Naval Postgraduate School in California and received a master of arts. Lilya primarily studied international relations, European history, and political science.
â€śThat is part of the reason I am in a staff job,â€ť said Lilya.
Lilya not only had a challenging academic course of study; he also had to undergo the rigorous pilot training program. As part of this program, Lilya had to learn about engineering and flying while enduring the â€śmilitary hazing.â€ť
Lilya said he had to learn so much in training that it was â€ślike drinking through a fire hose.â€ť
â€śThe standards we set for our military are very highâ€¦itâ€™s not something you can do without a lot of hard work,â€ť said Lilya.
Although Lilya had to endure grueling training to become a pilot, he has had many incredible opportunities as a result of this position. For example, he spent four years as an operational test pilot. This job involved testing the planes, software, and weapons. This former English major found that it was essential to use math as a test pilot.
â€śFor all my aversion [to math], I ended up in this technically challenging job,â€ť said Lilya. â€śIt takes a lot of math to drop bombs.â€ť
Lilya said the most rewarding experience in the military is â€śthe bond you have with your squadron or unit when you deploy.â€ť He said soldiers â€śwork a lot more than at home, yet itâ€™s a great time.â€ť
Lilya lives with his wife, Joanna Lilya, and children outside the Washington, D.C. area. Lilyaâ€™s parents, Claudon and Margaret Lilya, and his grandparents, Richard and Florence Mecham, live in Bingham County.