American Success: Air Force Vet Turned Private Aviation Disruptor

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By Matthew Berry

Last year, I got approached by a company to help it amplify a contest it was running on social media. So we made a deal and I tweeted a bunch for the company, shot some videos, pretty standard promotional stuff that I have done for a number of companies over the years. It’s a great relationship and one that continues to this day. In the middle of last year, while working for the company on that contest, I met its owner, Glenn. I learned his story as a veteran of the Air Force. And I thought his story was awesome. It was a story I thought people should know.

The issue? I have a business relationship with the company — and I didn’t want there to be the appearance of any impropriety. Even if it’s innocent, as this is, I know how those things can appear. With Veterans Day being celebrated this week, I wanted to write about him, but I also wanted to be 100% upfront about everything before I do.

So with that out of the way, I’d like you to meet Lt. Col. Glenn Gonzales.

In the league we play in together, Glenn’s team is 5-4. It’s an undermanned team that has overachieved despite losing Dak Prescott for the year and being without Austin Ekeler for most of it. Dealing with injury after injury, Glenn’s team is littered with tons of “waiver-wire guys of the week” types, such as Jerick McKinnonCole BeasleyBoston ScottBrandon Aiyuk and the recently acquired Duke Johnson. He has Jared Goff playing QB this week.

The team also has given up the most points, having had some really bad scheduling luck.

Most teams like this, with the injury issues and bad scheduling, have absolutely no business being 5-4 and still in the thick of it.

But most teams aren’t managed by Glenn Gonzales.

Born and raised in Houston, Glenn was an all-district point guard at Eisenhower High School, getting offers to play basketball at multiple schools, including the Air Force Academy. Glenn chose Air Force for two simple reasons. “It gave me a chance to do two things I really wanted to do: play Division I basketball and fly planes.”

Air Force didn’t win a ton of games while Glenn was there, but he played all four years, was a starter and was voted a team captain. Earning the school’s John Clune Award for leadership, Glenn was thinking big picture and about a lot more than just himself at a young age.

It was a quality that served him well in the Air Force, where, after school, he was stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas. His leadership skills were quickly noticed, and Glenn started training pilots on T-38s, pilots who would go on to fly fighters and bombers in the Air Force. Only the best in the class even get the opportunity to be trained on a T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainer. Glenn did that for four years, and over the course of those four years, Glenn said, 80% of the pilots he trained saw action overseas for our country, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But after four years, Uncle Sam decided it needed Glenn up in the air. Because, you see, as Glenn told me recently, “anyone can fly a plane, but using it as a weapon is another thing.”

I can’t even imagine … but that makes sense to me. It’s an incredible responsibility for someone to fly, say, an F-15C Eagle twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter aircraft that obviously carries weapons. But that’s the responsibility Glenn was given.

To become fighter pilots, two squadrons train for five months at their fighter training unit. And at the end of each squadron’s training, two awards are given out: the distinguished graduate award and the “Top Gun” award, given to the pilot who has been identified as the best of the best in deploying aircraft as a weapon.

Glenn Gonzales won both.

While stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, Glenn started doing what he has done his whole life. Prepping. Always prepping. Glenn would say to the pilots he led about missions, “If they come with [me], they are coming back.” And that doesn’t happen without incredible prep.