When a recent news report from The Daily Beast exposed the unusually amorous lifestyle of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Richard Kane Mansir, most people were shocked. Mansir, a civil affairs officer assigned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA, had maintained what were cited as “serious, long-term relationships” with no fewer than six women over the course of the past five years, all while still married to his spouse of 18 years. In the process, Mansir faked awards, faked assignments, and faked deployments. What he didn’t fake was the child he fathered with one of the women, who ultimately broke the story on Instagram.
For Mansir, that story officially launched his fifteen minutes of fame: he was going to be immortalized as a WTF? moment in military history. While society in general has a very short memory, that doesn’t apply when someone does something monumentally stupid. Those mistakes don’t just follow you around; they become urban legends – the kinds of stories people tell long after your fifteen minutes are up.
5 Ways to Earn Military Legend Status
Mansir is hardly the first person to take the low road to fame, and he surely won’t be the last. Get enough senior people around the cigar pit, and you’re going to hear the stories come out. And the stories they will tell. From the platoon leader who led a failed mutiny in the early days of Operation Desert Shield to the lieutenant who took a stolen APC for a joyride in Virginia, the stories are as amazing as they are unbelievable. But, through it all, you learn that there are five ways to earn military legend status—not the good kind that puts you on the front page of Stars & Stripes, but the weird kind that live in infamy on the pages of Task & Purpose.
1. Accept a bribe.
From the naval officers caught up in the Fat Leonard scandal to contracting officers during the forever wars, some people are just susceptible to an offer of hard cash (or Britney Spears tickets). I once worked with a lieutenant colonel who accepted a fairly substantial bribe, which he then converted to money orders at the APO to send home. He seemed truly surprised that a few hundred thousand dollars in money order purchases would attract the attention of federal authorities. Two cars, a boat, and some major home renovations later, his jail cell and WTF? moment were waiting.
2. Lose something big.
In my time in uniform, I had to investigate more than my fair share of incidents involving missing property. After seeing a company commander bury $375,000 worth of tools and equipment—along with any chance of a career—during the Gulf War, I thought I’d seen it all. A few years later, I was investigating another commander who had somehow managed to lose 22 trucks (the good news was that we found them all, but not in time to save his evaluation). If there is one WTF? truism, it’s that losing big things make for bigger moments.
3. Steal a little valor.
We all share a common contempt for the six-star general-specialist who shows up at an event and drinks all the beer. But when the person stealing the valor is someone actually serving, that’s a special kind of wrong. For some people, the allure of Clothing Sales is too much to resist. As a captain, I confronted a major in our headquarters for sporting an unearned combat patch and jump wings. He did his best to inject rank into the discussion, and I reminded him that we were only a few doors down the hall from his WTF? moment with the brigade commander. Good luck explaining that one.
4. Get jiggy with it.
What struck me most about Mansir was that he was hardly the first officer to wander down this road. Some men buy a convertible (also known as a midlife crisis mobile), others take a different path. Just over 20 years ago, two women in a bridal shop in Fayetteville discovered they were both engaged to—and planning weddings with—the same lieutenant colonel, who was busy preparing to take battalion command. A year after that, military police at another installation responded to a domestic dispute that turned out to be a roulette wheel of love among a cul-de-sac of majors and their spouses. When you’re lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, as the song goes, you’re going to find some WTF? moments.
5. Let it all hang out.
In the immortal words of Rick James, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug.” So is alcohol. So are a lot of prescription medications. Mix them together, and you’ve got a recipe for a WTF? moment. As a general rule of thumb, if you’re going to imbibe in anything that might cloud your thinking—or judgment—do so in the safety of your own home. The last thing you want to be doing on a workday is cruising the hallways of the headquarters wearing nothing but a pair of boxers and a smile. People will notice – trust me.
Mansir in the Spotlight…Until the Next WTF? Moment
In retrospect, about the only good to come of the Mansir situation was the Army’s announcement that it has launched an investigation. True accountability for WTF? moments can be elusive, like a search for blinker fluid or a left-handed Crescent wrench. But in this case, damage was done. People were hurt. Military law was breached. It’s a bizarre case that people will talk about for years to come, or until the next WTF? moment comes along.