When he’s not teaching math or developing curriculum for the engineering department, UT lecturer Van Herd takes to the sky with the Civil Air Patrol.
CAP is a volunteer reserve that supports the United States Air Force and engages in disaster relief, search-and-rescue missions and aerospace education. Members range from youthful cadets to service-minded veterans. Major Herd takes part in CAP’s educational programs and assisting in members’ professional development. Of course, he also indulges in his love of flight.
“I just love the sheer freedom,” Herd said. “It’s just miraculous.”
Herd said he often spent his childhood years traveling with his father, a corporate pilot who regularly flew business jets around the United States. Herd spent so much time in the cockpit that when he first took the controls at 12 on a flight with his father, the feeling of flying wasn’t all that surprising.
Herd said his dreams of joining the Air Force were influenced by his time in the cockpit as a child. However, he eventually elected to continue his graduate education so he could support himself.
“I know of friends and colleagues who have gotten out of the service,” Herd said. “While there are GI bills and so on, they always find it a difficult juggle financially.”
Though Herd has passed the age window to join the Air Force, he joined CAP two and a half years ago to continue flying and work towards his pilot’s license.
In an email, Captain James Glombowski, one of Herd’s CAP colleagues, said that Herd wasted no time becoming an integral member to the organization.
“Despite being a relatively new member, Major Herd quickly learned the processes, procedures and regulations to effectively navigate the bureaucracy of the Air Force Auxiliary,” Glombowski said. “He then took what he had learned and began helping other members in his squadron to complete their training and
Lieutenant Zach Medlin, Herd’s former squadron commander, also said he admires Herd’s dedication to CAP.
“He’s willing to drop everything for the organization,” Medlin said. “He’s excelled faster through the ranks of CAP faster than anyone I’m aware of.”
Due to his early success, CAP appointed Herd as a director of professional development. Unfortunately, his mentor for the position died soon after his appointment, forcing him to learn about the job’s record-intensive responsibilities on his own. Herd believes the experience shaped him into a stronger leader.
“(CAP) reified my determination,” he said. “It also strengthened me into a person who really likes a challenge.”
Grateful for his time with CAP, Herd said he is now trying to establish a CAP squadron at UT with old and new members, including students, to instill its values in others. He emphasized that the organization offers a variety of beneficial community service, leadership, social and educational experiences for people of all backgrounds, from engineering to business to communications.
“There is a job for everybody,” Herd said. “It’s a lot of fun. One gets to meet the folks. That’s not to mention our tactical training, such as training folks in the air to be mission scanners or mission observers. The list goes on and on.”
Herd said he even plans on recruiting his father to CAP. The two of them still share their passion for all things planes, even during airline travel.
“I enjoy it because I’m going to be in the air,” Herd said. “A flight attendant will ask me, ‘How are you today?’ How can I be anything else but wonderful?”