NEWS | Aug. 8, 2021

Making a difference through Northern Strike

By Master Sgt. Shelly Stark 183rd Wing Public Affairs

Have you ever wondered if you are making a difference to the legacy of your career field?

Master Sgt. Rick Boyer doesn’t have that problem. Boyer has spent 21 years as a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), first in the Illinois Air National Guard (ANG) before coming to the Michigan ANG. For the last seven years, he has trained Airmen from across the country as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) instructor and scheduler by running TACP exercises for Northern Strike (NS) 21-2 out of the Carmeuse Lime and Stone Quarry in Rogers City. As an instructor, he has made a definite push to implement and search out new technology that will benefit his unit, state, and career field, and ultimately the nation.

“One of my favorite parts about being an instructor is being able to take new technology and innovation that is being developed and put it into the hands of Airmen doing this job,” Boyer said. “It’s gratifying to see the Airmen who come here to train have a chance to use and test new technology, and be able to decide if it is something that would benefit their unit or help them out in the field.”

The variety of Boyer’s career has allowed him to work with emerging military technologies.

“When I interact with different companies that are working on defense related equipment, whether it’s different radios or just gear for the field, I use my experience to determine if it’s something that would be beneficial and help people when they are deploying downrange,” he said. “Then I’ll reach out and talk to people across the career field and ask, ‘Hey, what do you think about this? Have you seen this before? Is this a good item? Is this something that you think would be useful?’”

One of the current innovative technologies being tested in the field during NS 21 is the MPU-5 radio, a mobile radio which fuses existing systems and datalinks used by TACPs into one rapidly deployable all-domain network. Airmen participating in NS 21 had the opportunity to be fitted with the equipment, take it out in the field, and test it to determine if there is a viable benefit of the system for their current needs. Boyer stated that Airmen using the MPU-5s can take a few pounds off their packs while out in the field. That means they can carry more ammunition, food, or just less weight while out in the field.

“Being part of NS planning team, I have an opportunity to have input with our visiting units to see if they want to try out the new gear and test it while they are here," he said. "We have a chance to put [new technology] in our Airmen’s hands while they are on the ground and in the middle of a readiness training exercise.”

Approximately 5,100 participants from various states and countries will converge at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC) for Northern Strike between July 31 and August 14, 2021. The readiness training is focused on joint command and control, sustainment operations, integrated fires and force protection. Northern Strike is leveraging DoD, industry, and academia to improve joint warfighter training capabilities and offset modernization costs. The NADWC encompasses the Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. The training area consists of 148,000 acres of maneuver space and more than 17,000 square miles of special use airspace.

This is the 7th year Boyer has planned a portion of the NS exercises out at the Carmeuse Lime and Stone Quarry. Carmeuse permits approximately 1,200 acres of their land to be utilized which is where a portion of the JTACs and TACPs practice exercises.

“The Northern Strike exercise is a terrific conduit that connects industries and technologies to real users and scenarios,” Boyer said. “We can provide immediate feedback to challenge both military and industries to help the next generation of Airmen going downrange.”