Principal responds to story about drunken incident
By Chris Strunk
Last Updated: April 20, 2017
It's embarrassing. Greg Mittman hates to retell it. He doesn't even like to think about it.
But when offered the opportunity to respond to a March 28 story in the Topeka Capital-Journal describing a drunken night while he was deployed overseas with the Kansas National Guard five years ago, Mittman responded in detail, and he owned his behavior.
"I deeply regret it," Mittman said. "I regret what I did and how I embarrassed the people I was with and I regret any offenses I caused to the people that night."
Mittman, a longtime teacher and administrator in the Valley Center school district, retired from the Guard as a lieutenant colonel June 11, 2013, after a 28-year career.
The Capital-Journal story, which focused on Mittman's actions in bringing a complaint against one of his subordinate officers, also described a 2011 incident in Armenia when Mittman got drunk on homemade liquor, called a female officer a derogatory name and joked about buying a young girl.
"I was embarrassed when the story came out, and was hurt," Mittman said. "I know the people who know me know that's not who I am. But I know there are people in Valley Center who don't know me, and they read that and think that I'm some sort of a monster. These were things that happened five or six years ago. It's not something that has continued. The bottom line is I wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation with you if I wouldn't have behaved unprofessionally, and I fully admit that I did."
The Capital-Journal has been following an investigation into possible "enlistment fraud, racism, sexual assaults, impermissible fraternization, manipulation of promotions, retaliation against troops and subterfuge of internal investigations" with the Kansas National Guard. Some are convinced that the organization had "toxic" leadership, an accusation that has Mittman, as one of the Guard's top officers, right in the crosshairs.
In 2012, Mittman was on a Guard assignment in Armenia as part of a U.S. advisory and training detail.
"We were trying to help Armenia pass NATO certification for their deployment into Kosovo as a peacekeeping mission," Mittman said.
On the last night of the deployment, Mittman went out to eat with fellow officers and Armenian officers. The newspaper said it obtained details of the night from five current and former Kansas Guard members.
The Capital-Journal story refers to the gathering as a diplomatic event. Mittman said it was more of a social time.
"I had been there once before," Mittman said. "I was fully aware of what former Eastern Bloc countries' militaries like to do. They like to drink, and they like to get Americans drunk and make fools of themselves. I was prepared for it the first time, and the second time I wasn't. We went out. I was weak. I was unprofessional."
Mittman said the group ate dinner, drank wine and then began consuming some kind of homemade liquor that was brought into the restaurant.
Mittman got drunk.
"I can't explain it," he said. "I really can't. There are a handful of incidents in my life that I wish I could do over, do differently or do better. And that's certainly one of them."
What Mittman did while drunk, however, is what he regrets the most.
Mittman got mad and called a female Kansas Guard officer a "bitch" after she tried to get Mittman to stop drinking.
"She was doing the right thing. I was out of control," Mittman said.
It got worse.
After leaving the restaurant, Mittman stopped at a convenience store, where he purchased a bottle of wine that he eventually brought back to Kansas with him, he said.
On the way to the hotel, Mittman said he was trying to make people laugh by quoting lines from movies such as "National Lampoon's Vacation" and "Blues Brothers."
He said he saw a man and a young girl while the group was walking.
"I didn't know who it was, and I said, ‘Hey, how much for the little girl?'" Mittman said, using an accent to mimic a quote by John Belushi from the movie "Blues Brothers."
The Capital-Journal story didn't mention the movie line or the accent.
"That's what bothers me most about this story," Mittman said. "I think most people can understand I went overseas and tied one on. But that right there. It makes it sound like I was trying to purchase a child prostitute. It was so far out of context that it really bothers me."
Still, joking or not, Mittman said he made a mistake.
"If someone would've said that to me and my daughters, I would've been furious," he said.
Mittman said he accepts responsibility for his actions, but he hopes the blemish doesn't define his career.
The Capital-Journal story painted a picture of the divergent fates of two officers. While Mittman's transgressions were essentially swept away and he was allowed to ease into retirement, one former officer under Mittman's command was being forced out of the Guard because Mittman had trouble with him.
Mittman said the officer, Capt. Daniel Beach, was his "arch nemesis" while the unit was deployed in Africa before 2011.
"We had difficulties before the deployment and obviously after the deployment," Mittman said.
The officer has since retired from the Guard.
"I should probably not comment on that," Mittman said. "… I can say this. Every action that's been taken with regards to Dan Beach was a personnel action taken in accordance with Army regulation and/or Kansas National Guard policies."
Meanwhile in the Valley Center school district, Superintendent Cory Gibson said he still trusts Mittman.
"It's hard for me to evaluate what he did or did not do," Gibson said. "Greg has been more than transparent about this. Before the story was even printed, he met with me and we had a discussion about it."
Gibson said the behavior Mittman described does not fit a school administrator.
"But it is unrelated to his job now," Gibson said. "… From a district standpoint, we have full faith in Greg. We trust him to lead our building and still would if he wanted to."
Mittman, a former Bel Aire City Council member, has been an employee in the Valley Center school district since 1995, as a teacher, assistant principal and now as principal at the middle school. He's leaving the district at the end of the school year to become director of the Sedgwick County Educational Cooperative's new Interlocal Learning Center in Mt. Hope.
Mittman, 50, said his resignation from Valley Center has nothing to do with the release of the story.
"I do not want my legacy in Valley Center to be this story," Mittman said. "For some people it will, and that bothers me. I don't want people thinking that's the type of person I am. It's a piece of my history, but it's not who I am."