Profile: Lt. Col. Cloyd Lilley

The new chair and professor of military science and commander of Marshall University’s ROTC Thundering Herd Battalion hails from a long line of military veterans stretching all the way back to the Civil War.

In fact, Lt. Col. Cloyd Lilley’s great-great uncle, Pvt. John Lilley, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic service in the Union Army during the Battle of Petersburg in 1865. And Cloyd Lilley, a Uniontown, Pa., native, says he never considered another career other than the military. “It’s in my blood,” he says candidly. “There has never been anything else I wanted to do.”

He took over his post at Marshall this past June and says he’s excited about undertaking his new duties and the possibility to make a difference in the lives of the young men and women who come through the program. “We want to instill leadership skills, to turn out good citizens with a sense of responsibility and to offer opportunities to grow and learn themselves, among other things.” he says.

And there’s another proud family tradition Lilley and his son are carrying on–there are five generations of Lilley men who have shared the name “Cloyd,” beginning with his great-grandfather, Cloyd D., grandfather, Cloyd C., and father, Cloyd A. He’s Cloyd D. and his 15-year-old son is Cloyd J.

The Lilley family settled in Uniontown a few years after Lilley’s father finished his tour of military duty and it’s always been a source of pride to him that the famous and much-decorated hero of World War II and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Gen. George C. Marshall, was also a native of Uniontown and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. Gen. Marshall proved to be an inspiring role model for Lilley, a youngster eager to keep up the family tradition of military service.

After graduating from the Virginia Military Institute with a B.S. degree in electrical engineering, Lilley was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps. He would go on to earn a Master of Science degree from Troy University as well. After training at Fort Gordon, Ga., he was assigned as the Battalion Signal Officer for the 3rd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed in South Korea. In 1996 he was assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served as the Mobile Tactical Satellite and Contingency Communications Package Platoon Leader for Alpha Company, 82nd Signal Battalion and later as the Battalion Signal Officer for the 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. More assignments followed, culminating with a tour of duty in Hawaii as the Group Signal Officer for the 45th Corps Support Group. Following his completion of the Army’s Intermediate Level Education Course, Lilley was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and served as the Director of the Joint Network Operations Control Center—Afghanistan for Combined/Joint Task Force—82 during OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII and then as the Division’s Network Support Company Commander in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM X. In 2010 he was deployed to Iraq on his third combat tour and, earlier this year, the much-decorated Lilley concluded his tour in Fort Bragg as the XVIII Airborne Corps G6 Chief of Operations.

He got his start in ROTC, so he has a special feeling for the group. He’s pleased that so far this year there’s been an increased interest in enrollment over last year. His goal is to see that growth steadily continue and to commission an increasing number of officers each year. And in particular, Lilley wants to encourage students to take advantage of the opportunities the military science department has to offer.

“ROTC has produced an incredible number of leaders, not just for the military but for our nation when they return to civilian life,” he stresses. “For example, Gen. Colin Powell and Gen. George Marshall both were ROTC graduates and both served as U.S. Secretary of State.”

Physical training is an important part of their regimen, and while the goal is keeping fit and healthy, he and his cadre like to make sure the cadets have some fun as well. “We try to build in some fun things like water survival, rappelling, just fun challenges,” he says. And he’s quick to point out that ROTC can offer financial advantages as well through scholarships, but most of all, “ROTC can help train you for life. It’s been the foundation of my personal life.”