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Joe Geeter, III

U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Joseph H. Geeter was born in Chicago, Illinois. He earned his B.S. degree in management from Park College. In January 1976, Geeter enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and underwent training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and Basic Logistics School where he graduated as a class honor graduate.

During his first enlistment, Geeter served in all three active Marine Divisions and earned meritorious promotion to Corporal in 1978. In 1981, Geeter was assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in Beaufort, South Carolina where he served in logistics and participated in the NATO exercise Ocean Venture in 1982. He soon transferred to Okinawa, Japan and became the Assistant Group Logistics Chief and Platoon Sergeant, Headquarters and Service Company of the 3rd Force Service Support Group (FSSG). He was then reassigned in 1984 to MCAS, Beaufort and served as the Logistics Chief of Marine Air Control Squadron Five where he coordinated and participated in several field exercises. In 1991, Geeter was deployed to the Republic of the Philippines and served as the Operations Chief and Detachment Gunnery Sergeant for Combat Service Support Detachment-35 in support of MAGTF 4-90. He soon transferred to Okinawa and served as the Logistics Chief of the Tactical Exercise Control Group in the 3rd Surveillance Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group, III MEF. During this tour, Geeter participated in Cobra Gold ‘95 in the Kingdom of Thailand.

Geeter completed the Equal Opportunity Advisor’s Course at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute and was promoted to Master Gunnery Sergeant in 1999. He then was assigned as the Equal Opportunity Advisor to the Air Station Commanding Officer aboard MCAS, Beaufort. After retiring in 2001, Geeter was appointed as the Corporate Employee Relations Manager at the corporate offices of AmeriGas Propane.

Geeter served as the 16th National President of the Montford Point Marine Association from 2005 to 2009. During the 2010 National Convention, Geeter was inducted into the Montford Point Marine Association Hall-of-Fame. Geeter also served as the National Legislative Officer and the National Public Relations officer for the Montford Point Marine Association. He is also a lifetime member of the NAACP, the 1st & 3rd Marine Division Associations, and the American Legion.

In 1998, Geeter received a Special President's Award from the National President of the Montford Point Marine Association for his work with the Beaufort Chapter, and the James Calendar Award in 1999 for his continued efforts on a national level for the Montford Point Marine Association. He was honored with the prestigious NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award for his significant contributions to the Marine Corps in the area of equal opportunity and community involvement. Geeter’s military honors include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.

U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Joseph H. Geeter was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 26, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.086

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/26/2013

Last Name

Geeter

Maker Category
Middle Name

Henry

Schools

Morgan Park High School

Park University

Holy Name of Mary School

Mendel Catholic Preparatory High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Joe

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

GEE01

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Saint Martin

Favorite Quote

If You Can't Find Time To Do It Right, When Will You Find Time To Do It Again

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

9/17/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Noncommissioned officer Joe Geeter, III (1958 - ) was the 16th National President of the Montford Point Marine Association. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after twenty-five years of service, and became the corporate relations manager for AmeriGas Propane, Inc.

Employment

United States Marine Corps

AmeriGas Propane

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joe Geeter, III's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his maternal grandfather's military service

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his paternal grandfather's career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III describes his father's work experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his early neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Joe Geeter, III describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his early experiences with religion

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his childhood interest in sports

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III remembers the 1969 World Series

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III describes his favorite subjects in school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his maternal grandfather's mentorship

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III remembers transferring to Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his favorite high school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III remembers joining the bowling team in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III recalls complications prior to starting boot camp

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his early experiences in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III recalls searching for his estranged father

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in San Diego, California

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his administrative graduation from boot camp

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his decision to fight at U.S. Marine Corps boot camp

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III remembers being denied the right to vote at boot camp

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III describes his experience with racism at Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his experiences at logistics school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III talks about military representations in the media

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his assignments after logistics school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his work at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III recalls moving to the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III describes his promotion record

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his time stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III recalls becoming a recruiter in Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his recruiting assignment in Joliet, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III recalls reuniting with his maternal grandmother

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III describes his recruiting philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III remembers reconnecting with paternal family

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his first encounter with the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III remembers teaching lessons about African Americans who served in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III describes the history of African Americans in the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III talks about the Persian Gulf War

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III describes how Jimmie Howard received the Congressional Medal of Honor

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III remembers meeting Jimmie Howard

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III talks about preserving Jimmie Howard's legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his last duty station in Beaufort, South Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III remembers training a second lieutenant, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III remembers training a second lieutenant, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III recalls training to become an equal opportunity advisor

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his last U.S. Marine Corps position

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his decision to leave the U.S. Marine Corps

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III talks about his awards

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III remembers his first civilian position at AmeriGas Propane, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III recalls his transition to civilian life

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III remembers being the national president of the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III talks about the formation of the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Joe Geeter, III recalls lobbying for the Congressional Gold Medal for the Montford Point Marines

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Joe Geeter, III remembers rallying support in Washington, D.C. for the Congressional Gold Medal bill

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III recalls having to re-lobby after the 2010 midterm elections

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Joe Geeter, III remembers the vote for the Congressional Gold Medal

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Joe Geeter, III describes the aftermath of the congressional vote

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Joe Geeter, III recalls the support of the original Montford Point Marines

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Joe Geeter, III talks about the support of AmeriGas Propane, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Joe Geeter, III reflects upon his military legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Joe Geeter, III describes the impact of his U.S. Marine Corps career has had on his private sector career

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Joe Geeter, III recalls making the Montford Point Marines documentaries

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Joe Geeter, III reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Joe Geeter, III talks about the importance of the Montford Pointers Marine Association, Inc. in his life

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Joe Geeter, III describes his family's support of his endeavors

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Joe Geeter, III reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Joe Geeter, III narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

12$7

DATitle
Joe Geeter, III recalls his administrative graduation from boot camp
Joe Geeter, III describes the history of African Americans in the U.S. Marine Corps
Transcript
Is this like when you're in the Marines, did you like the feeling of being part of a team or?$$ It was. It was part of belonging. I was a recruiter so I know those intangibles that the [U.S.] Marine Corps sells and I bought into it and I wanted to be a part of that team. So despite--some folks still didn't want us there and when I say us, I mean African Americans. It was pretty tough in boot camp when they put the white platoon leaders, the squad leaders, the guide [guidon bearer], they were all white and they were tough on us. They were tough on me.$$Did they give you racial insults and--?$$ Oh absolutely, every day. Every day but that was--I can give as good as I got though, so yeah.$$Okay. What was the toughest part of boot camp [at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, San Diego, California]?$$ Not graduating with my platoon?$$Okay, well what happened?$$ Got into a fight a couple of days from graduation. That same old guy that was just throwing these epithets at me and talking about me, I got an opportunity to get him in a corner and I took advantage of it. Yeah, that was tough. But I wasn't going to let him go back to Texas talking about how he bossed around African Americans. So I made sure I gave him a little something to remember me by. But I got caught.$$Okay.$$ Yeah, so that was tough.$$So did you have a reasonable chance of not being caught?$$ I didn't think I was going to get caught. We were about a week from graduation when we're thinking we're going to be Marines, we were very close to being Marines and he had said something to me and my bunk mate and I think it was, had something to do with my buckle, my brass buckle. He did something to it and I got a chance to get him what we called the hot locker at the time where we stored detergent and things of that nature. And the drill sergeant really trusted us then because we had gone through seventy-two, seventy-three days of boot camp. It was only seventy-eight days in boot camp, we was almost at graduation. So they weren't in the squad at the time but this guy came into the hot locker when I was in there and I just took advantage of him and tried to knock him out. Yeah, but then that wasn't the right thing to do then either here 'cause we got caught and when we went in front of the captain for what we, what I now know was office hours. And the captain just had one question, "Who threw the first punch?" And of course it was me. So I had to do seven days in what they call correctional--correctional custody there, so seven days in the brig.$$And when you got out of the brig I mean you had, did you have to do boot camp all over again?$$ Interesting story, that's probably the first time I'm really telling this publicly but when I got out of the boot camp, I went in front of an administrative officer. I think it was a major at the time and I completed three of the four final steps for boot camp. So he told me that, said, "You have a couple of choices here." He said, "I could send you back to the platoon that's going to graduate next week and you can finish your final inspection," which was the fourth of the four things you had to do to graduate. He said, "So the Marine Corps is really not the thing for you there young man because you really lost your discipline and your bearing and maybe you shouldn't be a Marine." So he said, "I could administratively discharge you right here, right now and you go back to Chicago [Illinois]." And the third choice I thought was very interesting. He says, "I can administratively graduate you from boot camp because you've completed most of the necessary tasks to graduate and I can have you on an airplane in a couple of hours back to Chicago." Guess what I took? I got on the airplane back to Chicago and graduated administratively.$$Okay.$$ So when I went to recruiter school in 1987, part of recruiter school is to attend a graduation because these are the kids you're going to put in the Marine Corps to graduate. And I remember looking over to the guy next to me, I says, "You know this is my first time really seeing a graduation." And he says, "Joe [HistoryMaker Joe Geeter, III], you graduated from boot camp," and when I told him, "No I didn't," he was absolutely flabbergasted. He said, "You what? You never graduated from boot camp?" And I never went to the ceremony. And so it was pretty weird. I never met anybody that didn't graduate from boot camp, but I didn't graduate.$$So he gave you an administrative graduation--$$ From boot camp.$$--and then you flew back to Chicago for R and R [rest and relaxation] (unclear)?$$ Yeah, I had ten days off.$$Ten days off.$$ Actually a little bit more than ten days because I was scheduled to graduate December 22nd I believe and I think I went to correctional custody on December 17th or something like that. So it was right before Christmas. So they extended my time instead of the normal ten days I think I got like twelve or thirteen days, so I didn't have to report back to my next duty station 'til January 3rd; so I had a couple of weeks back home after boot camp.$Well this is as good a time as any, just kind of give us sort of a sketch of the history of mon- of the blacks in the U.S. Marine Corps.$$ Oh that's the easy stuff there.$$All right.$$ Well prior to World War II [WWII], there were no blacks in the Marine Corps. There are some documented cases of blacks serving during revolutionary times but they didn't serve as open enlisted Marines, most of the time they have served in the stead of somebody else during revolutionary times. Blacks had served in the [U.S.] Army. The Buffalo Soldiers people are familiar with them, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment [54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment]. Everybody saw them most people have seen the film 'Glory' with Denzel Washington. Blacks have served in the [U.S.] Navy since revolutionary times too. The [U.S.] Air Force wasn't in existence yet. It didn't come into existence 'til 1948, but there were no blacks in the Marine Corps. Around that time blacks were starting to fight for jobs in the [U.S.] Department of Defense. And a gentleman named A. Philip Randolph was really petitioning Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to open up the defense agency for African Americans. And he actually threatened a march on Washington [D.C.] in 1941 to make his point. And we all know that I think 1942 is an election year and Franklin Delano Roosevelt really needed the black vote. So June of 1941, he signed an Executive Order 8802, which allowed for blacks to have, to compete for jobs in the Department of Defense, specifically in the Marine Corps. So that document is very important to, it should be important to all Marines, but particularly the African American, the Montford Point Marines because that document allowed them to become Marines. Now although that document was signed in 1941, the Marine Corps didn't start accepting blacks until June of 1942, fully a full year after an executive order. That's because the Marines didn't want us. The commandant of the Marine Corps, Thomas Holcomb at the time didn't want blacks in the Marine Corps. He was asked if it was a choice between 250 blacks or five thousand whites, which would you take? His answer was, I'd rather have the whites. And you got to keep in mind, this is the commandant of the Marine Corps, we're on the verge of World War II, if not in World War II at the time, but his disdain for African Americans was so deep that he just didn't want them in the Marine Corps. But he has a, an executive order that he has to comply with. So after about a year of going back and forth with Frank Knox who was the secretary of the navy at the time, the Marine Corps finally complied with the executive order and they started enlisting blacks on 1 June 1942. But these blacks did not go to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego [San Diego, California] like I did or Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island [Parris Island, South Carolina] like most Marines go to. They went to a place in Camp Lejeune [Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, North Carolina], originally called Mumford Point [sic.]. It changed to Montford Point [Camp Gilbert H. Johnson, Jacksonville, North Carolina] and I really don't know the origin on how it changed but the tract of land was Mumford, M-U-M-F-O-R-D [sic.], but it ended up being called Montford, M-O-N-T-F-O-R-D. And it was located on New River, about eighty miles from the big base being built called Camp Lejeune. So it was a separate facility that no more than woods and trees and bears and mosquitoes and they had to build those first arrivals there almost had to build the base. So from 1942 to 1949, approximately twenty thousand men went through Montford Point; and those men became known as the chosen few, the first black Marines. And that was very, very important to me to learn this history and to know this history.