Rick Mantei was born in St. Joseph, Michigan on June 9, 1954, to parents Edgar and Jo Marlene Mantei. After residing in Michigan for five years, the family relocated to Warner Robins, GA, Jo Marlene's hometown. Rick's father served as an enlisted sergeant in the Air Force during the Korean War and later worked for the US Postal Service, while his mother was employed at Robins Air Force Base. Rick has a younger brother named Darrell, who is a well-known carpenter in Warner Robins.
Growing up in a military community and under the influence of his father's military background, Rick pursued an appointment to the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) in 1972, ultimately graduating with the Class of ’76. His time at the Academy solidified his passion for aviation, leading him to pilot training at Craig Air Force Base (AFB) in Alabama.
Reflecting on his Academy experience, Rick credits Colonel Tom Storey, one of the longest-held POWs in the Vietnam War, for leaving a lasting impression on him. Storey's integrity, determination, and love for his country deeply impacted Rick's values.
Following his graduation from Craig AFB, Rick underwent F-4 fighter training at Homestead AFB, FL, marking the beginning of his career in the F-4E Phantom fighter jet. His operational unit stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB provided him with valuable experiences, including combat deployments. Additionally, Rick pursued higher education, earning a Master's Degree in personnel management while stationed at Seymour and later starting a Ph.D. in the same field.
In 1982, Rick transitioned to the South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) at McEntire AFB, where he flew F-16s until his retirement in 1996. During this time, he balanced his military service with a civilian career at Merrill Lynch in Columbia, SC, where he achieved recognition as one of the top financial advisors in the country. Rick's military background further contributed to his success, especially during his active duty deployment in Operation Desert Storm.
In addition to his professional endeavors, Rick actively participates in community service, supporting various organizations such as Homestead Hospice, The Gary Sinise Foundation, and Harvest Hope Food Bank. Rick also donates incentive flights for aspiring pilots and charitable foundations alike.
Rick currently resides in Columbia, SC, with his wife and two daughters, remaining dedicated to his family, career, and community involvement.