Alumnus instructs U.S. Air Force’s top pilots.
As a teenager in 1980, Glen VanHerck, pitching for Bismarck [Missouri] High School, threw a no-hitter in the semifinal game of the state championships. For the future U.S. Air Force brigadier general, it was an auspicious display of athletic precision, discipline and excellence.
Now, as commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base just south of Knob Knoster, Missouri, VanHerck is responsible for the health and welfare of more than 12,000 active-duty, guard and reserve service members and civilians. He has trained some of America’s top pilots to fly some of the most sophisticated aircraft on the planet, including the F-15 Eagle and B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. But his career’s flight path was not without layovers.
A baseball scholarship led him to Mineral Area Community College in Park Hills, Missouri, before he transferred to Southwest Missouri State University and, ultimately, Mizzou’s ROTC program.
The son of parents who were pilots, VanHerck, BGS ’87, practically grew up at Bismarck Memorial Airport. When his mother died in 1984, VanHerck took a year off of school to reevaluate his course. The holding pattern eventually landed him at Mizzou and later the University of Central Missouri where he earned a master’s degree in aviation safety and management.
“At Mizzou, college had become fun,” says VanHerck. “I knew where I was going, I had a clear path and I knew what the light at the end of the tunnel was going to involve.”
Flying military missions might require unparalleled technological skills, but leading servicemen and women requires an appreciation for people and relationships.
“People always ask me what is my favorite assignment or airplane, and I tell them they’re all my favorite,” says VanHerck who has relocated with his wife, Marilyn, and daughter 17 times throughout his career. His daughter, Molly, pursues an English degree at Mizzou. “Military families are resilient. I used to tell her, ‘You’re not leaving old friends, you’re going to make new friends.’ ”