Whiteman Air Force Base personnel and community leaders will be on hand for a change of command ceremony for the 509th Bomb Wing on Friday.
Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere will relinquish command of the 509th — Whiteman’s host unit — to Brig. Gen. Glen D. VanHerck during the official ceremony, slated for 11 a.m. Bussiere, who assumed command in June of 2012, has been assigned to a new position as Deputy Director of Command, Control, and Nuclear Operations on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. VanHerck comes to Whiteman after a stint as commander of the Air Force’s 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.
The 509th is part of Air Force Global Strike Command and its fleet of B-2 Spirit bombers serve as part of the Air Force’s conventional and strategic combat force. Bussiere was able to celebrate the B-2’s legacy during his tenure, with the base marking the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the aircraft last year.
“It’s always a privilege to command a unit filled with incredible people like the men and women of the 509th Bomb Wing, but 2013 was certainly a special year,” Bussiere told the Democrat via email. “Even 20 years after the ‘Spirit of Missouri’ first landed at Whiteman Air Force Base, the B-2 remains the world’s most advanced bomber, and the Year of the B-2 was our opportunity to remind people around the world of the ongoing role this remarkable aircraft plays in deterring America’s enemies and reassuring our allies of our commitment to their security.”
Although the military is increasingly utilizing remotely-controlled drone aircraft, Bussiere said he believes the B-2 will remain an essential asset to the nation’s defense capabilities.
“In the future, America’s reliance on the B-2 will only increase,” he said. “How America projects power is changing, and in a time of shrinking budgets and smaller forces, the ability to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world using an aircraft based in the heart of America will be an invaluable asset for future presidents.”
A decorated pilot who led F-15C combat missions during operations Southern Watch and Vigilant Warrior and B-2 combat missions during operations Allied Force and Iraqi Freedom, Bussiere said he and his family are excited about the opportunity presented by his new position in Washington, D.C.
“My main responsibility will be to advise the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Staff Director of Operations on a wide range of issues, in particular nuclear, space and missile defense operations. Barb (his wife) and the kids are excited about moving to our nation’s capital,” Bussiere said.
In addition to his military accolades, Bussiere has drawn strong support from community partners, including Sedalia Mayor Elaine Horn, who served as president of the Base Community Council in 2013. The organization, which includes representatives from 18 surrounding communities, helps maintain the relationship between WAFB and its neighbors.
“Gen. Bussiere has been great to work with. He is very community-minded and supportive of the airmen,” Horn said. “We have a great working relationship with Whiteman and our sister squadron. They understand they couldn’t succeed without the support of communities around them and they employ a lot of local people that work there and a lot of airmen live here.”
Bussiere said maintaining those relationships are essential for the base’s success.
“I think most people who live in Missouri, especially around Whiteman, are familiar with the B-2 and what it does. What I would like people to know is that the B-2, while a very remarkable aircraft, is only effective because of our community partners who support the world’s most powerful weapon system,” Bussiere said. “The airmen who fly, maintain and support the B-2 are the greatest national treasure stationed at Whiteman, and commanding them has been the greatest privilege of my career. The communities around us have been, and will continue to be, an integral part of our success.”
According to his Air Force bio, VanHerck was born in Kentucky but raised in Bismarck, Mo., and is a 1987 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he earned a bachelor of science degree and the University of Central Missouri, where he earned a master’s degree in aviation safety/management in 2000.
He has a diverse background that includes operational and training assignments in the F-15C and B-2A. He has served as an Instructor Pilot and Flight Examiner in the F-15C, B-2A, and the T-6A. Additionally, he served as a USAF Weapons School Instructor in the F-15C and the B-2A.