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Feature Stories

NEWS | June 6, 2020

A Career of Service

By Story by Sgt. Sydney Mariette 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade

MIDDLE EAST – “I was going to do 20 years and split,” said Sgt. 1st Class Boyd Brinker, platoon sergeant for Charlie Company, 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade (ECAB). “Obviously 20 years has come and gone, and I still feel useful. I guess when I get to the point when I don’t feel useful, I’ll stop then.”

Like many National Guard Soldiers, Brinker joined the military when he was 17 years old. Unlike he’s fellow Guardsmen though, Brinker is still serving in the Iowa National Guard some 35 years later.

“Service is actually not an impact, it’s a part of my life,” said Brinker. “It’s a part of me…It’s just kind of who I am now.”

Having raised his right hand and taken the oath to serve both his state and nation back in 1985, Brinker has been in aviation units his whole National Guard career. Beginning as an Aircraft Structural Repairer, he has served in four different units throughout the state of Iowa, deployed twice and is currently deployed for a third time as a platoon sergeant for a flight company stationed in the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.

“I really like aviation and I like working on helicopters,” said Brinker.

However, having worked his way into a leadership role, Brinker says taking care of people and mentorship are now the best parts of his job.

“You get to meet a lot of nice people, you get to work with a lot of nice people, and you get to hopefully teach some people,” said Brinker. “When I’m gone, if nobody ever mentions my name that’s fine. But maybe I’ve been able to teach someone something that they can take and teach the next one and the next one.”

Brinker has dedicated himself to mentoring both to the ranks below him, as well as those above him. He developed a productive partnership with 1st Sgt. Jason Zeliadt, the 1st Sgt. for Charlie Company, and has worked as a team to ensure their Soldiers are taking care of the mission and themselves.

“Working with Sgt. 1st Class Brinker has been a pleasure,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Zeliadt. “Knowing his experience as a NCO, there was no doubt in his ability to take care of Soldiers. He has mentored me just as much as I have mentored him. Becoming the 1st Sgt. of Charlie Company three weeks prior to the mobilization, I was happy to know I had a well experience Soldier to assist in the mentorship of the all the Soldiers in the company.”

Brinker decided to commit to another six year contract while deployed with the 34th ECAB. This final contract will bring his total years in service time to over 40 years in the National Guard, double that of the required time in service to qualify for retirement. To mark the special occasion, Brinker’s brigade sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Mitchell Hellkamp asked Lt. Gen. Pat White, Commanding General of Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, to sign Brinker’s re-enlistment contract.

“Sgt. 1st Class Brinker has served his state and nation for 35 years and being he was deployed, I wanted to make this re-enlistment something special that he could remember as it will be his last extension of his military career,” said Hellkamp. “How many people can say they had a three-star general sign their papers?”

Brinker requested a small, enlisted personnel only re-enlistment ceremony. Therefore, next to a hot, desert airfield on June 6, 2020, with a Soldier representing each of the ranks he’d previously worn and the ranks still to be earned, Brinker renewed his oath of service for another six years.

Not many service members make it 20 years, let alone 40 years. When asked what advice he had for younger Soldiers, Brinker offered that constructive criticism should be taken professionally —not personally— as it is a means to improve both the organization and service member.

“Don’t take anything personal, it’s part of the job,” said Brinker. “That’s pretty much a life lesson, but it’s really important in the military because if you stay mad at someone you’re not going to be effective. You can’t hold onto that forever otherwise you won’t make 20 years.”