Grad Story: Troy Boonstra, Honored for Military Heroism, Earns ADMBA

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After twenty-five years of military service—including multiple tours of duty to Afghanistan and Iraq, playing a role in the Jessica Lynch rescue, and receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism—Troy Boonstra is ready to mark another milestone: his MBA.

Boonstra graduates from UT’s Aerospace and Defense MBA program today.

Boonstra had earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. He joined the military while in college.

On September 11, 2001, he was based in Kentucky as U.S. Army helicopter pilot with the prestigious 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment Airborne, also known as the Night Stalkers.

He was at home when the first plane commandeered by a terrorist hit the World Trade Center.

“I told my wife, ‘This is no accident,’ and I headed out the door for the base. I knew something very foreboding was happening.”

Boonstra was walking in the door at his office when the second plane hit the Twin Towers. The elite military team around him stood silent and focused.

“We all just looked at each other and silently started preparing–boxes being packed, gear put in order,” Boonstra said. “We knew. Even in the midst of the tragedy, I felt such pride that we were ready. We didn’t know how, why, or what, but we were ready.”

The unit was deployed almost immediately. “The 160th was smaller then,” Boonstra said. “It is the only unit I know of that has been constantly deployed since 9/11.”

Boonstra’s deployments included two tours of duty in Afghanistan and thirteen tours of duty in Iraq. He was part of the Jessica Lynch rescue, providing aviation support for the ground forces that went in to get her.

There were other rescue missions for Boonstra, but the details aren’t things he can talk about.

“Rescue operations always touch something in a soldier. Being able to bring someone home to enjoy the freedoms we are fighting for is a great honor,” he said.

Boonstra retired in 2009 and now lives Tucson, Arizona He is a program manager in advanced missile systems for the Raytheon Company, which specializes in defense, homeland security, and other government markets.

“As I get increasing levels of leadership, I thought it was important to understand the business side of my industry,” he said, explaining why he opted for UT’s ADMBA program.

Boonstra said the lessons he learned in his almost twenty-five years of military service have helped him in the business world and in the classroom.

“What makes a successful business is very much like what makes a good special ops unit,” he said. “You need a high-reliability organization with processes and procedures for getting things done. But you also need leaders who can make decisions based on gut and intuition.

“In business and in the military, that intuition is based on your experiences, years of learning, pattern recognition, and the ability to think on your feet. These traits are prominent in many of my classmates. The ADMBA faculty and class of 2012 are another exceptional team of which I am proud to be a part.”

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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