Joe Geiger: Building a Future on a ROTC Foundation
Joe Geiger â€™09 is not shy to say that being in ROTC as aÂ student at Mines changed his life. His wife, Mel, agreed,Â remembering back to their high school days when he was aÂ scrawny boy who had an afro of red hair and wore HawaiianÂ shirts like they were going out of style.
â€œI was able to get an engineering degree in four years and haveÂ a job and stay on track and have good grades and do ROTCÂ because of the structure and discipline that ROTC provided. Itâ€™sÂ multilevel,â€ Geiger said.
He knew he wanted to be in the military from a young age. FiveÂ generations of his family served in the U.S. Army, and he felt theÂ calling, the desire, the responsibility to serve. He was awarded aÂ National ROTC scholarship at the same time he was accepted toÂ Minesâ€”the only college he applied for. During his four years atÂ Mines, he created lasting friendships with fellow cadets and ran upÂ Mt. Zion too many times to count. Geiger graduated from MinesÂ with a mining degree and went straight into the Army. He spentÂ seven years in active duty, three years overseas and one year inÂ combat in Afghanistan. His last day in the Army happened to beÂ the day before he was interviewed for this story; his new realityÂ was just setting in.
â€œI havenâ€™t processed [being out of the Army] yet. Even when I wasÂ on campus, we were doing physical training five days a week inÂ the morning, and then we had classes and leadership lab, so I wasÂ in uniform almost every day. And then the last seven years as myÂ full-time job,â€ Geiger said.
But Geiger is not finished with the military. He accepted a job asÂ an assistant professor of military science at the Rochester InstituteÂ of Technology. The position seems made for Geiger; it was vacantÂ for four years because the requirements (a post-command captainÂ with combat experience and an engineering degree) were prettyÂ limiting. His Mines education made him the perfect candidate.
â€œNow I can kind of mold the little cadets into my vision of what aÂ good officer should be. And Iâ€™m not the best officerâ€”far from it.Â But I want to be able to take my slice of wisdom and try to makeÂ them better than I was,â€ Geiger said.
As if his time in the Army and new teaching position do not showÂ his commitment to service, Geiger also tossed his hat intoÂ the race for a seat in New Yorkâ€™s state legislature. Twenty-fourÂ candidates initially announced they wanted to run in the primaryÂ on the Republican ticket. Of those, 13 were invited to interviewÂ before party chairs in the district. Eleven candidates were thenÂ invited to participate in a caucus, and Geiger finished third.
â€œThird place as someone who had just moved home recently, hadÂ zero connections or background in politics and effectively hadnâ€™tÂ been able to campaign at all [while serving in the military],â€ GeigerÂ said. â€œThe two people who beat me had been involved in politicsÂ and government for 20 years plus and they were already electedÂ officials as it was. It was kind of a shocker.â€
Now that he has the freedom to campaign, Geiger thinks he hasÂ as good of a shot as anyone to make the ticket for the primaryÂ in September and believes that because of the conservativeÂ demographics of the district, whoever wins the RepublicanÂ primary will go on to win the election in November. He willÂ campaign on three specific platforms: rooting out governmentÂ corruption, fixing a crumbling infrastructure and growing aÂ friendly business climate. He was also recently accepted to theÂ University of Rochesterâ€™s Simon Business School, where regardlessÂ of whether he wins the election, he will go on to get an MBA.
Geigerâ€™s life has been full of learning opportunities that he hopesÂ will help make a difference and contribute to bettering the world.Â And even though he says itâ€™s cheesy, Mines was instrumental in hisÂ success.
â€œI would say joining the Army was the second best decision Iâ€™veÂ made. The best decision was marrying Mel, and Iâ€™m really excitedÂ that we have a baby on the way,â€ Geiger said. â€œOur journey startedÂ years ago with me joining ROTC.â€