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.