Mike Ilko Graduates from the Sergeant’s Major Academy

Mike Ilko Graduates from the Sergeant's Major Academy

After two years of hard work, Mike Ilko celebrated his well-deserved graduation from the distinguished Sergeant’s Major Academy this past April. 

In August of 2022, Ilko began his journey through the Sergeant’s Major Academy program. The Sergeant Major Academy includes 18 months of rigorous distance learning and two weeks of resident course phase at the Sergeant’s Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. This program serves to produce and develop apt and competent leaders for the military, and graduates are considered to be in the top 1% of the military, signifying the difficulty and prestige of this program.  

While of course Ilko wanted to join this program to become a more competent leader, he clarified, “First of all, I had to complete this program to keep my rank in the military.” All Sergeant Majors are required to complete the Sergeant’s Major Academy in order to keep their status in the military.  

When describing what the program was like for him, Ilko explained that it was a series of self-paced modules that soldiers were expected to complete and keep track of themselves. A large part of the program involved improving literary comprehension and structure through college writing. This was especially important since some soldiers in this program had never taken a college writing class. 

Ilko stated that there were some significant challenges to this course for him and other soldiers. “Time management is the key. Between managing home life, military outside of the program, work, and the program itself, keeping yourself balanced can be difficult,” he explained. However, through many late nights and long days, Ilko persevered through this accomplishment. 

Despite the challenges, Ilko emphasized that the program was beyond beneficial and definitely worth it. He admitted that, although the self-paced nature of the program was hard to keep up with at times, it allowed flexibility for busy soldiers and reminded Soldiers about accountability. 

Ilko agreed that he also developed many skills beyond time-management and accountability. One very important skill that he developed in this course was communication. “I am not a social butterfly,” Ilko remarked. “That course showed me that I need to open up a little bit, especially because many of my soldiers are Gen Z.” With those communication skills, Ilko in turn learned how to communicate with people that have differences in culture and generation, which is something that he believes that many leaders struggle with throughout their time. “Those are my soldiers, and I need to be able to communicate with them,” he said. 

When asked if he thought that his directory for the future would change because of this program, Ilko answered no. “This is pretty much where I am now until I retire,” he laughed. However, Ilko claimed that the leadership skills and habits that he developed through this distinguished program would follow him through the rest of his life. 

Besides this recent accomplishment, Ilko has been a part of the LIS team for 11 years and now holds the position of Survey Coordinator for LIS, serving as an integral part of the organization and coordination of projects for LIS. At LIS, Ilko works to schedule and delegate field crew for projects. Throughout his time at LIS, he has also balanced his military career, being a Command Sergeant Major. 

Former Intern Returns as Full-Time Survey Technician 

Former Intern Returns as Full-Time Survey Technician

After completing two summer internships as a land survey intern, L.I. Smith & Associates (LIS) is proud to announce that Nikolas Heath has returned as a full-time survey technician. Heath’s journey with LIS began in the summer of 2022 when he was a sophomore at the University of Tennessee at Martin (UTM). During his first year as an intern, Heath spent most of his time working out in the field as a member of the survey crews, becoming more familiar with survey equipment and data collection procedures.

The following summer, Heath returned. This time, however, he was able to split his time between working with the field crews and the office technicians. He learned valuable skills such as AutoCAD drafting, project management, and more about the various types of survey projects. Further, Heath’s leadership skills shone through as he took on a mentor role with the new interns. Having already completed a summer with LIS, Heath was able to assist and mentor the new interns who were less familiar with the instruments and procedures.

Now reflecting back on his earlier experiences at LIS, Heath claims he felt his internship allowed him to gain extensive knowledge and develop his passion for land surveying further. “Even within the first week, I gained so much knowledge about surveying and I also learned that I loved it,” Heath says. 

Fast forward two years, Heath is now a recent graduate, having earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in engineering technology in May of 2024. Through his hands-on experiences during his internships, he applied the knowledge and skills he learned to his classes at UTM.

In his new role as a survey technician, Heath will take on new responsibilities both in the office and field, such as operating surveying instruments including prisms, GPS/Robotic Total Stations, and auto-levels, as well as recording survey measurements and descriptive data using notes, drawings, sketches, and data collection files. In the office, he will perform technical drafting and provide support for specific projects.

Heath states that he chose to return to LIS for full-time employment because he enjoys the work environment of the office, saying that it was a place that offered comfort as it is not overly strict or rigid, and, also, that he was offered plenty of hours and overtime as an intern. When asked, Heath said he would absolutely recommend LIS to others seeking out internships, remarking, “Everybody here is great. It was easy to come in because everyone was welcoming and willing to teach.” 

However, Heath now has his eyes focused on the future with his full-time position at LIS. Through his new position, he plans to study and learn in order to conquer his fundamentals test and, in two years, his state license test. Overall, Heath is excited to further his professional career and skills at LIS as a survey technician.

“Nick will be a tremendous asset to our team. Throughout his time interning with us, he has shown his strong work ethic, ability to adapt, and willingness to learn,” remarked LIS Vice President of Marketing and Communication, Ashley Horn.

LIS Welcomes Summer Interns 


Four college students, representing three universities in Kentucky and Tennessee, were selected for summer internships at L.I. Smith & Associates (LIS). The students will take on roles in civil engineering, land surveying, marketing and communications, and, for the first time, the finance field. The internships will allow them to gain first-hand experience in their chosen fields of study.

“This summer, students from the University of Tennessee at Martin, Murray State University, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, will be completing internships at our Paris office,” commented Ashley Horn, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at LIS “We look forward to the knowledge and enthusiasm each student will bring to our company.”

Will Gallimore, a McKenzie, Tenn. native, joins LIS as the Land Surveying intern. Gallimore is a rising senior at the University of Tennessee at Martin (UTM) pursuing a degree in farm and ranch management, alongside a land survey certificate. He is very involved in campus life, having held leadership roles in Sigma Chi Fraternity and the Cattleman’s Association, while also contributing as a student worker on the university’s farm. Additionally, Gallimore was the first recipient of the Lucile D. Smith Land Surveying Scholarship in the spring semester.

Taking on the role of Civil Engineering Intern is Grant Bartholomew. As a previous intern for the West Tennessee Public Utility District and a summer worker for Barsto Construction, Bartholomew is interested in developing skills in infrastructure design and surveying during his internship. Bartholomew is from Huntingdon, Tenn., and a senior at UTM, with an expected graduation date of May 2025. He is also a member of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity.

Kathryn Bullion, who previously interned throughout her time at Henry County High School, has returned as a Marketing and Communications intern. In her previous role with LIS, she showcased her capabilities by taking on various responsibilities across the marketing and administrative departments including reporting, data entry, developing marketing communications, and acting as a brand ambassador at external events. Bullion, a rising sophomore at the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK), excels academically and as a student leader. As a freshman, she was elected Vice President of Marketing for DECA Inc. at UTK, a position she’s earned through her dedication to the organization and marketing excellence previously during high school and now at the university level. 

In the new role of Business Operation Intern, Rachel Holmes will help the controller and support staff manage various functions of the accounting department. Holmes will begin her senior year this fall at Murray State University, graduating in May 2025 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a minor in Finance. Her passion for the field is evident through her active involvement in campus organizations, including the MMBA-LCS Club, which involves marketing, management and logistics, and supply chain management. In addition, as a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority, Holmes has demonstrated outstanding leadership as she served as the Director of Chapter Finances in 2024 and led initiatives such as fundraising events for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Since the program’s development in 2022, LIS has offered internship positions for college students seeking to sharpen their skill sets in the land survey, civil engineering, and marketing fields. This year’s interns mark the third group to complete the program and the first to work within the finance field. They will undoubtedly bring a new perspective to our operations. The LIS staff is looking forward to what this group offers and is excited to have them part of the team this summer!

For more information about the LIS internship program, visit our website at www.lismith.com/join-our-team/ or contact Horn at ahorn@lismith.com. 

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