The itch to fly really hit hard for Vincent Mancuso during his senior year at Gig Harbor High School in 1981.
He was 17, a member of the high school’s first-ever graduating class, and had just received his pilot’s license out of the Tacoma Narrows Airport.
The teenager was so enamored with flying — sometimes on those very sunny weekdays in early spring near graduation the airplane was just calling his name ...
“I was really focused,” Mancuso recalled fondly last week. “I was doing everything I needed to do (to foster a career in flying).”
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That love of flying got him started on a career path in the U.S. Air Force that culminated Sunday when Mancuso was promoted to the rank of major general during a ceremony at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Mancuso, who turns 52 next month, is now a command pilot and a command cyberspace operations officer who holds a Ph.D. in information systems. During his seven-year active-duty career, he flew 36 combat missions in the F-4G Wild Weasel during Operation Desert Storm. After transitioning to the Air Force Reserve, he became the command’s first-ever graduate of the National Defense University’s Advanced Management program.
As an Air Force reservist, Mancuso currently splits his time between working with the Air Force Chief of Staff at the Pentagon and his civilian job, flying commercial airliners with Delta Airlines.
Mancuso “would never have never predicted a path toward general” after graduating from Gig Harbor High.
After spending 17 years in the Air Force centered around flying jets, Mancuso transitioned into the information technology career field. He focuses his efforts now on working with Air Force leaders to do everything possible to help airmen do their jobs.
“We’re constantly asking if there are things that are making it difficult for them to do their mission,” Mancuso said.
The Air Force’s mission in today’s world has become very diversified, and it’s about more than just moving cargo and protecting airspace. The service has embraced a role in protecting cyberspace and fighting conflicts fought through the Internet. That expanding of the mission scope and accompanying added strain on the active-duty force has made the integration of guard and reserve forces an important piece of the puzzle, he said.
Mancuso works to build policies and budgets to better utilize the guard and reserve components of the force.
“There is a great opportunity to work both pieces (of the force) together,” he said.
Sunday’s ceremony was a chance for a group of about 150 friends, family members and former classmates and teachers to gather and watch the 31-year Air Force veteran be promoted to the rank of two-star general.
Jay Wiley, Mancuso’s former science teacher at Gig Harbor who taught for 28 years in the Peninsula School District, was honored to be invited to attend the ceremony. Wiley remembered his student as a “very bright young man.”
“He wasn’t pretentious or full of himself,” Wiley said.
For Mancuso, Sunday was also chance to reconnect with people he hadn’t seen in several years. He even got the opportunity to go back to the Narrows Airport and relive some old memories last week during a few local flights around his hometown.
“I feel connected here,” Mancuso said.
And after holding his previous promotion ceremony in Washington D.C., where he lives with his wife, Mancuso wanted to acknowledge the great support he has received throughout his career from way across the country in Gig Harbor.
“This is about me thanking the family,” Mancuso said. “I wanted to do it closer to family and friends.”