Jefferson County native Todd Moenster has a job not many others can claim.
Moenster, 44, spends many of his days soaring the skies in a Northrup Grumman B-2 Spirit, better known as a stealth bomber.
“There are only 20 stealth planes in the Air Force,” he said.
Moenster, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, said he feels privileged to pilot such a state-of-the-art flying machine.
“The experience is a very humbling one,” he said. It’s difficult to explain. You’re doing a mission of great importance to the country. It’s a very exciting job. It’s challenging.”
In some ways, flying the B-2 is like piloting other airplanes, Moenster said.
“What’s unique is its stealth capability and its ability to project firepower long distances.”
It’s an exhilarating job, he said.
“It is fun. It’s exciting,” he said. “There are things you see and do other people don’t get to experience.”
Moenster graduated in 1995 from Grandview High School, whose mascot is the Eagles. He flies out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster on the western side of Missouri, where he lives with wife Cherie and their 9-year-old son.
He said piloting the B-2 requires physical and mental toughness.
“There are long missions, upwards of 30 hours in the air at a time,” he said. “You’ve got to have the physical ability to fly for a very long time and the mental ability for making quick decisions.”
Moenster earned an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., graduating in 1999. He has served in the Air Force ever since.
In 2017, he was deployed to Afghanistan and flew 60 combat missions in a communications and electronics warfare plane called the E-11 Sentinel.
Moenster said he also has flown T-37 and T-38 trainers and the B-1 Lancer.
He said he has avoided flying mishaps, but is aware of the dangers of his profession.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Moenster said. “I’ve had colleagues injured while ejecting, some killed in combat and in training.”
His parents, Jerry and Ginger Moenster of Dittmer, said they are proud of their son and his accomplishments.
“It’s been an amazing journey for him,” Ginger said. “He knew since sixth grade he wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force.
Jerry, a retired Grandview R-2 School District superintendent, said he can pinpoint his son’s interest in flying to a specific event.
“He went to an air show at Scott Air Force Base (in St. Clair County, Ill.) and wanted to become a pilot.”
Moenster said he recalls going to that air show.
“Absolutely, that was one of my seminal moments growing up,” he said. “I went to an air show with one of my friends. I was awestruck. I dedicated myself to reaching that goal.”
After graduating from the Air Force Academy, he proceeded to pilot training, and while he had no flying experience, he said he liked to play flight-simulator video games.
“(Graduating from the Air Force Academy) opened the door to pilot training,” Moenster said. “I had no flying experience at all.”
He said pilot training is no picnic.
“No matter how sharp you are, you’ll struggle,” he said. “You’ll have flights that don’t go as well as you like.”
However, Moenster said he would encourage his son to be an Air Force pilot if he wanted to, and he urges all young people to chase their dreams.
Moenster not only has a bachelor’s degree from the Air Force Academy, but also a master’s degree in international relations from Troy University in Alabama, and he recently earned a second master’s in history from Harvard University’s Extension School.
“It’s part of Harvard University,” he said. “The courses were a combination of online and in school. I would take commercial flights to classes (in Cambridge, Mass.) It took three years to complete the master’s.”
Moenster plans to retire from the Air Force in 2022 and is contemplating his next career.
“It’s been a rewarding career,” he said. “I’ve been in the military since I was 18, and I’ll retire after 23 years active service.
“Now, I’m looking for a job in the private sector. Not as a pilot. I’m looking at education, to teach at the college level, or something with a defense contractor in the (Kansas City area).”
Moenster said he would like to keep living on the west side of Missouri, where his wife is from.
However, he said he regularly visits Jefferson County.
“I come home every couple of months,” Moenster said. “I always enjoy seeing friends and family who are there.”
He credits people from Jefferson County with helping him achieve his goals. “If you work hard and have some kind of a goal in mind, there are people – like the teachers at Grandview – who will help you along the way. I certainly feel I wouldn’t have made it without their support,” Moenster said.