JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (April 15, 2019) -- Niluk Wikkramatillake, a native of Colombo, Sri Lanka and a prior U.S. Army service member is scheduled to earn a bachelors degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso in May 2019 and commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Wikkramatillake came to the U.S. in 2010 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, which is a recruiting program used by the military. He joined the Army in 2012 and went to basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

"Initially when I came to the U.S., I came looking for a degree in engineering," he stated. "After two years I realized that it was a better opportunity for me to join the army."

Upon graduation of advanced individual training as a wheeled vehicle mechanic, he then reported to 5-52, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade in Fort Bliss, Texas. He served six years in the Army as an enlisted Soldier. While he was assigned to 5-52, 11th ADA BDE, he deployed to Turkey from 2014-2015. Along the way, he decided he wanted more out his career and decided to enroll in the U.S. Army Green to Gold program. The program offers enlisted Soldiers, who qualify, an opportunity to earn a degree of their choosing and to commission as an officer.

When the opportunity to complete his degree in civil engineering arose, he took it upon himself to meet all requirements and earn his bachelors degree.

When I joined, I saw many officers and I told myself that I can be that one day and continue to lead soldiers from the front, he remarked. "I was a non commissioned officer, I wanted to try the officer world as well, to lead Soldiers."

After continuously following through on his vision of one day becoming a commissioned officer, he is now set to earn his bachelors degree in civil engineering from the UTEP in May 2019. While in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, he was able to share some of his knowledge and wisdom that he gained from his time in service with other cadets.

"Giving them stories, showing them how the Army works and what to expect when they go to their unit," he said.

From March 14-21, 2019, the UTEP cadets flew to Hawaii to visit Army units and to learn about military history on the island of Oahu. One of the units they went to visit was the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam; which turned out to be home to some familiar faces to Wikkramatillake.

Command Sgt. Maj. Eric McCray, the command sergeant major of the 94th AAMDC, served as the command sergeant major of 5-52, 11th ADA BDE at Fort Bliss, Texas, while Wikkramatillake was assigned to that unit years ago. Wikkramatillake distinctly remembers Command Sgt. Maj. McCray.

"Command Sgt. Maj. McCray was the epitome of a Non-commissioned officer", said Wikkramatillake. "He led from the front, he set the standard on how to become a top class Non-commissioned officer."

Command Sgt. Maj. McCray distinctly remembered Wikkramatillake as well.

"It was an honor and privilege to serve as Sgt. Wikkramatillake command sergeant major in both garrison and deployment operations," said McCray. "Sgt. Wikkramatillake was an outstanding Soldier and you knew it from the moment you saw him by his can do attitude and ever present smile."

With graduation in sight, Wikkramatillake can only reflect on the guidance he received from his past leaders like Command Sgt. Maj. McCray.

"Never forget that you are Soldier who serves something greater than yourself," stated McCray. "Although you are representing the Officer Corps now, you still are responsible for upholding the traditions and standards of our great profession and leading America's sons and daughters."