Czech air force master sergeant graduates NCO academy

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • 37th Training Wing Public Affairs
Her uniform bears such a close resemblance to the Air Force service dress, it requires a second look.

Her blue eyes and blonde hair offer no clues that her home is a continent away instead of just around the corner.

But the thick accent and broken English are an indicator that, while she may look like a Southern belle, she's not from the southern United States.

Rest assured, though, Iva Musilova made her presence known at Lackland.

A master sergeant in the Czech Republic air force, she was part of a foreign exchange program and became only the second foreign national to graduate from the Robert D. Gaylor NCO Academy.

Sergeant Musilova completed a six-week leadership course at the NCO academy Oct. 22 along with 184 students in 13 flights. Receiving the diploma was as much about perseverance as it was about learning.

"It was very demanding," Sergeant Musilova said before crossing the stage to receive her diploma. "I felt like I couldn't manage this course after the first two weeks; all the studying, the new things, the foreign language (were difficult for me)."

"But we had a great teacher and my class helped me," she said.

Master Sgt. Erica Gage, NCO Academy instructor, said it didn't take long for the other 13 students in the class to make Sergeant Musilova their little sister.

"They adopted her," Sergeant Gage said. "The class became very protective. She didn't live in the same dorms they lived in but they took her back and forth. They really took her under their wing and looked out of her."

The course, which focused on four areas in leadership and communication, is for technical sergeants and technical sergeants selectees. Students must complete the NCOA before they can assume the rank of master sergeant.

The average length of military experience by class participants is seven to 10 years. Sergeant Musilova has served in the Czech air force for five years, and her instructor sees that as a positive.

"She'll have a jump on how to be an effective senior NCO," Sergeant Gage said. "She was like a sponge (soaking up the material). She's not supervising anyone yet so she doesn't have any biases about how people work.

"She took in everything I told her and said 'OK, I can make this work,'" Sergeant Gage added. "That's why she was able to be successful on all our objective tasks, because she was listening to what was being taught instead of what she had encountered with other people."

When Sergeant Musilova arrived at Lackland in early September, she quickly found out the difference between the course curriculum and her expectations.

"I expected more training, exercising and marching," she said. "I didn't expect the studying. Some nights I stayed up all night studying."

When everything clicked about two weeks into the course, Sergeant Musilova said, "I became excited. There was much information to (learn). I had to take advantage of this. My instructor really motivated me."

Sergeant Gage said she treated the overseas visitor like any other student and held her to the same standards as her classmates.

The class pulled together to help Sergeant Musilova overcome the language barrier, written and spoken, along with any other obstacles that were encountered.

In fact, the class wanted Sergeant Musilova to experience everything they would.

"You know how we're always giving coins?" Sergeant Gage said. "The class bought her a coin and had me give it to her. They learned a lot from her and plan on staying in touch."

And feeling like she's made friends for life, Sergeant Musilova said she plans to do the same.