MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
If someone were to ask a member of the Marine Corps acquisitions community to describe Marine Corps Systems Command’s outgoing director of Public Affairs and Communication Emanuel “Manny” Pacheco, there’s a good chance they’d hear enthusiastic anecdotes about a hardworking, empowering, goal-oriented leader whose eyes never lose sight of the mission at hand.
“There’s something to be said about the fact that—at 40 years of service—Manny is the longest-serving public affairs officer in the Marine Corps until today,” said MARCORSYSCOM Brig. Gen. David Walsh during Manny’s recent retirement ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. “He has made a tremendous impact, leaving a legacy behind in the countless Marines, civilians and combat correspondents he has mentored over the years, and in the really strong public affairs team he’s built here at Systems Command.”
“Manny always delivers,” added MARCORSYSCOM Sgt. Maj. Allen Goodyear. “It doesn’t matter what was asked or expected. He’s united his team and put the Command on his shoulders.”
Walking into Emanuel “Manny” Pacheco’s office on a crisp February afternoon, however, it was clear that I was in the presence of a man preparing to loosen his tie and – perhaps reluctantly -- declare, “mission accomplished.”
After all, Pacheco has served his country – and the Corps – since he was just 19 years old.
“I had graduated and was getting ready to go to community college and knew that I wanted to do something different, to have a bit of an adventure,” Pacheco recalled. “I gave all of the branches a fair shot, but after meeting the Marine recruiter, my mind was made up. He asked me if I was ready to make a change in my life, and two months later, I was shipping off to bootcamp.”
But Manny’s desire to serve has been with him ever since he can remember.
Having moved to California from Portugal with his family when he was just ten years old, he found inspiration in his father’s military service and ultimately joined the ranks of foreign-born patriots like Alexander Hamilton, the Baron von Steuben, the Marquis de Lafayette, Madeline Albright and Albert Einstein.
“I always knew I’d serve in one way or another, and I think it had a lot to do with this deep-seated desire to help others. It’s something my parents instilled in me: not the military aspect of it, but that of service to friends, family, and neighbors,” he said. “When I think about it, this whole journey has really just been an extension of that,” he added.
And serve he has – on the job and off.
“Manny is a good friend, and I know from experience that he’s the kind of person that will literally give you the shirt off of his back,” said Dustin Atkinson, Assistant Program Manager for Program Management at the Program Executive Office Land System’s Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault. “There was a time my car broke down while my wife was out of town and Manny literally drove for two hours to drop off a car that I could use to get around. That’s just the type of person he is.”
“The only thing Manny loves more than the Marine Corps is his family, especially his wife and three children,” said Col. Wendell Leimbach, director of the Joint Intermediate Force Capabilities Office. “I can’t help but remember a period when his father-in-law was ill, and Manny moved him into his house. He even installed a ramp to help him get in and out of the house and provided him with the best care through his final days. That’s Manny for you.”
But Pacheco is much more than just a good Samaritan (or a volunteer little league coach); he’s also one of the Department of Defense’s most skilled communicators.
“It never mattered who you were. Manny was always willing to lend a hand and guide you,” recalled Ruben Garza, product manager for the Amphibious Combat Vehicle at PM AAA. “It wasn’t rare to see a general or an [Senior Executive Service member] chasing him down; he’s always been a sought-after and valued source of knowledge, and his guidance and focused approach is known to yield positive results.”
“Manny has a natural gift for connecting with people, and he understands the intricacies of human relationships in everything that we do,” said Leimbach. “He knows how to engage with people at all levels and across organizations because he is genuine and truly cares about others. As a result, he has formed valuable connections with people across the globe who always have his back.”
Pacheco’s path as public relations expert began in 1982 -- with just two days left at boot camp -- when a senior drill instructor pulled him aside and told him to head down to the Public Affairs Office.
“In the moment, all I could think is, ‘what the heck is the Public Affairs Office?’” he recalled with a chuckle.
After passing an English test, Pacheco was offered the opportunity to become a broadcaster and remembers feeling excited about a future on screen and radio. But after just one day in the broadcast class at Defense Information School, however, he remembers being politely told that his voice was “better suited for newspapers.” [Editor’s note: Manny, who later in his career hosted MARCORSYSCOM’s Equipping the Corps podcast, eventually got the last laugh.]
Pacheco quickly embraced his new role in public affairs and ultimately served as a Combat Correspondent and Public Affairs Marine for 21 years, working as an aide to Marine generals at home and abroad, and as the PA Chief for Marine Forces Europe. Furthermore, his work to recruit young Marines placed him in positions including Public Affairs non-commissioned officer for Recruiting Station New York, Marketing and PA Chief, Recruit Advertising Officer for the 6th Marine Corps District, and Marketing and PA Chief for Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
Ultimately, his work bringing the Corps’ mission to the forefront of the public’s mind has taken him to places as far away as Japan, Germany, Greece, Somalia, Rwanda, Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkey, Norway, Romania, Ukraine, Ghana, and South Africa – something he admits he never expected.
“Turns out you don’t have to join the Navy to see the world,” Pacheco joked before recalling his two deployments with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
While Master Sgt. Pacheco retired from the Corps in 2003, his desire to serve led him to accept a position at the National Guard Bureau. At the Bureau, he served as a plans and policy advisor and ultimately as the senior media officer who established rapid response PA teams in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
However, his departure from the Corps would be short-lived. He returned to Quantico in 2009 as the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle public affairs officer before assuming responsibility as the PAO and Congressional Liaison for PEO Land Systems in October 2014. He assumed his final post as director of Marine Corps Systems Command’s Office of Public Affairs and Communication in 2019.
“I couldn’t be happier that Manny chose to return,” said Atkinson. “He is an exceptional colleague and one of the hardest-working individuals I've ever had the pleasure of working alongside. He is driven, reliable, and follows through on every commitment he makes.”
As his time at Quantico comes to an end, however, there is no doubt that his absence will be felt by all of those touched by his selfless dedication and commitment to the mission.
“As Manny prepares to transition out of a life of service to our country, I hope he recognizes his legacy will live on in the work we continue to do for the warfighter,” said Walsh.
“To the very day, everybody is well within six degrees of separation from Manny Pacheco,” quipped Leimbach. “He's one of those national treasures that people will be hearing about for years and years to come.”
His friends, however, are excited to offer him some advice for a change – although they readily admit he’s unlikely to take it.
“Without a doubt, Manny’s one of my best friends, but I know he still won’t listen when I tell him to put his feet up and relax,” said Garza.
“After a distinguished military and civilian career, Manny has earned a well-deserved break,” said Atkinson. “The mission has changed and his focus should be to throw up his feet and spend some quality time with his family.”
After over four decades of focusing on the warfighter, it seems only fitting that Pacheco takes some time for himself – never forgetting that his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched, and in the Corps, whose story he so skillfully helped tell the world.