Generations of generals in the Oklahoma National Guard
By ERIC SWANSON | The Ada News | Published: October 9, 2019
OKLAHOMA CITY Okla. (Tribune News Service) — The Oklahoma Army National Guard officially promoted its newest general officer, Brig. Gen. Tommy Mancino, on Tuesday. However, this will not be the first time a Mancino has been addressed as general in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
Tommy’s father, Tom, is a retired brigadier general with more than 40 years of service in the Oklahoma Army National Guard. This also marks the first time a familial legacy of general officers has happened in Oklahoma Army National Guard history.
In 1966, Tom Mancino was struggling with college and visited an Oklahoma Army National Guard recruiter in Broken Arrow. He made the decision to enlist in the Oklahoma Army National Guard right then, no less than 24 hours before he received a draft notice for the Vietnam War in the mail. After serving as an enlisted soldier for two years, Tom found himself in a tent during a rainstorm, listening to an Officer Candidate School recruiter. He was given an opportunity to advance his career that he could not refuse.
“I asked if officers had to do [kitchen patrol] duty,” Tom recalled. “The guy told me no, so I said, ‘Sign me up.’ ”
Early in his military career, Tom was a full-time teacher and part-time Guardsman, trying to find a balance on the teetering scale between citizen and soldier, until one day it clicked for him.
“As with most young officers, I thought if I retired as a captain, that would be above what I thought I could have achieved,” he said. “After seven or eight years of service, I was in love with the camaraderie. I had met some of my best friends in the Guard, and I was not going to give it up.”
The love of service and fulfillment of duty spilled over to his two sons, Tommy and Chris, who, at the age of 17, were jokingly given an ultimatum by their father to “enlist or leave home.” For Tommy, it was an easy decision to make. He enlisted as an infantryman in the Oklahoma Army National Guard on his 17th birthday and later commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1992 as a military intelligence officer.
“Obviously, my dad was a big reason why I decided to do what I did,” Mancino said. “I always wanted to do something different from my father, not go down the same path. At that point, I decided I would do something different, so I went MI.”
One of Mancino's first assignments was in the 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, which happened to be the same unit his brother, Chris, served as a supply sergeant and his father commanded. In 2003, Mancino once again served under his father when the senior Mancino commanded the 45th Infantry Brigade during their deployment to Afghanistan.
“To be able to see your father command an infantry brigade is a pretty amazing thing,” Mancino said. “I’ve learned a lot from that generation of military officers, post-Vietnam and Korea.”
Mancino said it was strange being in combat with his father. During their deployment, the Mancinos were riding in a convoy that came under attack.
“It’s a situation where we did not do anything different,” Mancino said. “We were both exposing ourselves to the same risk, but I’m sure there was an additional sense of heightened security. Anytime your soldiers are being shot at, you think, ‘Hey, that’s like my kid,’ and you are very concerned about it. But when it really is your kid, I’m sure it is really intense.”
During the deployment, Phoebe Mancino had both husband and son deployed at the same time. However difficult their time was in Afghanistan, Tom credits his wife, who died in 2017, with providing solace to her husband and son, as well as members of the Brigade and their families through her involvement in the 45th Infantry Brigade Family Readiness Group.
“Every soldier in the Guard should give their spouse credit,” Tom said. “My wife was very supportive. While I was gone, [Phoebe and the other spouses] did all the things we hire people to do full time now. She was very influential with what was being done stateside while we were deployed. When I retired, they awarded her honorary major general rank so she could command us both. If she was alive today, she would remind us that she outranks us both.”
Now that the junior Mancino has entered the ranks of general, his father, who is the current president of the board of directors for the Oklahoma Military History Center in Broken Arrow, said he is proud of the accomplishments his son has made, despite the extra scrutiny he may have received as a general’s son.
“Tommy was a good enough soldier on his own he didn’t need me to provide him with any opportunity,” Tom said. “I was quite proud, pleased and surprised, but not totally surprised as he has such a great military background and was a proven combat leader in two theatres. The one thing I think I’m most proud of him for is that he makes good, sound, ethical decisions. And if you do that, you won’t have any problems.”
The newly promoted Mancino said he did not know his military career would take him down the path to general, but he said it has been a career of welcomed surprises.
“I had no expectations of becoming a general officer myself,” Mancino said. “The story is indicative of ‘Be careful, you never know what will happen.’ You never know what you might find yourself doing. I think we all say, ‘I want to accomplish as much as I can and do the best job I can,’ but luck and timing can get you into a position where you get the opportunity to have that extra responsibility.”
In his new role as the assistant adjutant general [Army] for Oklahoma, Mancino advises and assists the adjutant general on the preparation of units for homeland defense and mobilizations, and he has oversight of training, administration, logistics and personnel actions that affect the organization, its soldiers and their families.
On the civilian side, Mancino is the executive director for the Oklahoma Military Department, where he oversees state accounting, personnel, youth programs and the 45th Infantry Division Museum, as well as serving as a military liaison for the Oklahoma State Senate.