Blackfoot native leads an exciting life
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, Lilya’s plans changed after he looked into the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at BYU as a way to pay for his education.
After examining Lilya’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 Lilya’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.
“That is part of the reason I am in a staff job,” 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 “military hazing.”
Lilya said he had to learn so much in training that it was “like drinking through a fire hose.”
“The standards we set for our military are very high…it’s not something you can do without a lot of hard work,” 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.
“For all my aversion [to math], I ended up in this technically challenging job,” said Lilya. “It takes a lot of math to drop bombs.”
Lilya said the most rewarding experience in the military is “the bond you have with your squadron or unit when you deploy.” He said soldiers “work a lot more than at home, yet it’s a great time.”
Lilya lives with his wife, Joanna Lilya, and children outside the Washington, D.C. area. Lilya’s parents, Claudon and Margaret Lilya, and his grandparents, Richard and Florence Mecham, live in Bingham County.