Colonel Glenn Whicker | A Spy Plane Pilot Teaching Life Secrets
Col. Glenn Whicker has flown spy planes near enemy borders, worked in the Pentagon with Homeland Security, and served as a Russian escort pilot, but he said teaching young people to be “better citizens” has given him some of the greatest experiences of his military career.
Col. Whicker has been the senior Aerospace Science Instructor at the Dixie High Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program for the past nine years.
“My enjoyment in the job is helping to open their eyes, and say ‘hey, you can do this,’” Whicker said.
You can see the pride in the Colonel as he recalls some of the students he’s seen come through JROTC and continue on in successful careers. He keeps in touch with as many as possible.
Col. Whicker’s passion for JROTC has a lot to do with his own involvement in during the program during his own college years, and many opportunities to be an instructor during his time in the military. Whicker joined the Air Force in 1980, though he was no stranger to military life. His father also served in the Air Force as a flight engineer.
After joining the military, Col. Whicker went through pilot training in Arizona and Texas, mastering command of the supersonic T-38.
“I did extremely well with the T-38,” Whicker said. “Loved the airplane.”
Col. Whicker did so well, he ended up staying on at the base another four years as an instructor on the T-38. It was there he began to gain an appreciation for teaching.
“I really enjoyed instructing,” Whicker said. “I was only a year older than the kids I was instructing, so that was fun.”
Col. Whicker’s love of the T-38 eventually took him to Beal Air Force Base California, and it was there he would start an exciting and unique military career flying the U2 Dragon Lady, one of two reconnaissance aircraft adopted by the U.S. Air Force.
“They only take volunteers,” Whicker said. “The Air Force cannot assign you to the U2, you have to volunteer for it.”
Col. Whicker did volunteer and spent several years flying close to 55,000 feet in the sky near enemy borders. He said one of his scariest moments happened on his second mission flying the U2. Whicker was returning from a day of reconnaissance near North Korea when the plane malfunctioned.
“My engine flamed out,” Whicker recalled. “Deciding I didn’t want to crash a multi-million dollar airplane five miles short of the base, I saw a South Korean air base below me. I decided instead to just circle and descend and land there.”
After a rocky landing, Col. Whicker received a Strategic Air Commands Heads Up Flying Club award for his quick thinking and expert maneuvering to save the aircraft.
Whicker continued until working his way up the ranks in the Air Force, working in the Pentagon, and eventually retiring in 2005. Little did he know his most impressionable work was about to begin.
Whicker had already thought about JROTC instruction before retirement, so when the time came he began the process of finding an opening. There were several near their home in Washington D.C, but unexpectedly Southern Utah showed up on the website.
Veterans in St. George had been petitioning the Washington County School District for a JROTC program for about a decade. Col. Whicker believes something beyond himself led him to this area where hundreds of eager students were ready and willing to enroll. That realization was humbling.
“When I decided that I wanted to teach JROTC, I was thinking more about the classroom,” Whicker said. “I didn’t realize the expanse of what this program entails at the time. I didn’t understand how involved it would become with the community.”
Over the past nine years, the JROTC program has grown to include over 200 students enrolled every year. Students are bused in from all the local high schools. Col. Whicker said their program has been recognized as one of the most successful in the country.
Col. Whicker said one of the most inspiring things to see is the camaraderie among cadets, even those from rival schools.
“I still really feel a sense of accomplishment after I’ve taught a good lesson,” said Whicker. “I see the light bulb come on in their eyes and I think, this is worth it,”