USAMMDA Says Farewell to Commander, Col. William E. Geesey
In the grand scheme of things, two years may not seem not a long time to many. Eight changes of season...24 months. However, to those in the military, two years is the typical length of a tour – to be assigned anywhere around the globe – and the tasks accomplished during this time can make a world of difference to both the Service Member and the organization he or she serves.
Such has been the case for Col. William E. Geesey, outgoing commander of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, Fort Detrick, Maryland. Among other achievements over the past two years, Geesey has made significant strides in communicating to the world the value of the Department of Defense's advanced development activity for products designed to protect and preserve the lives of Warfighters – and many are now more familiar with USAMMDA's important role in Army Medicine.
On June 23, however, Geesey will relinquish command of USAMMDA as he heads for San Antonio, Texas, to assume his new post as president of the U.S. Army Medical Department Board, based at Fort Sam Houston. Although he is looking forward to the fresh challenges and a change of climate, he certainly will miss the sense of family that USAMMDA has provided.
"When I arrived at USAMMDA in 2015, I immediately knew that this was a special organization," said Geesey. "The men and women who support this command are truly among the best and the brightest that I've ever met in my career, and it has been a pleasure working with everyone here. I'm very proud to have been a part of USAMMDA's accomplishments over the past two years."
It seems that the mission of USAMMDA, to protect and serve our nation's military members, was a perfect fit for Geesey from the start. He has always been inclined to serve, in any capacity, since his early days.
"I was raised with a sense of service," explained Geesey. "Both of my parents worked in non-profit healthcare, and I learned from them the satisfaction of helping others."
While growing up in Martinez, California, Geesey was "encouraged" by his parents to volunteer during the summer months. He recalls working at a local nursing home, tutoring foreign immigrant students in English, and speaking about drug-use prevention to junior high school students. Apparently, a career of service was in the cards for him, but it was the military that called his name from a very young age.
Said Geesey, "Since about the second grade, I always thought that I would join the military. My father served a few years, and so did both of my grandfathers, but none were career Service Members.
"I'm not sure I really ever thought about it as a career," he continued, "but when I became an officer, I started to see this as a solid pathway to the future, and I feel very fortunate that it has worked out well for me."
Having enlisted straight out of high school in 1984, Geesey's initial goal was to be a company commander. Of course, becoming an officer involved completing a degree, and he was determined to make this a top priority. Education became quite a passion for Geesey, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree with honors and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of Southern California. Since then, he also has earned master's degrees in Computer Resources & Information Management and in Strategic Studies.
Fortunately for the USAMMDA team, Geesey brought with him this steadfast determination when he arrived as commander. From our conversation, it seems this tenacious resolve was instilled in him at a very young age.
"My parents were hard workers, and they never wanted my brother and me to sit idle for too long," he explained. "So, we both worked during high school. I ran track and cross country, I was class president my junior year, and ever since sophomore year in high school, I have always held a job.
"But even before that, when I was little, I had a paper route and a child-sitting service – I've had a checking account since I was nine years old!"
This bit of history helps to explain Geesey's high level of energy, day-in and day-out, which certainly has buoyed him in his role as USAMMDA's commander.
For the majority of his military career, he has held numerous leadership positions in medical logistics, medical information technology and healthcare administration, but Geesey shared that his most memorable time in the Army came during his years as a lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
"There was a great sense of comradery throughout the 82nd Airborne, because being in a unit that jumped constantly was very demanding, both mentally and physically," said Geesey. "But I would have to say that I found the same sense of 'family' when I came to USAMMDA, so I've been able to rekindle that feeling during my time here."
Geesey's accomplishments with USAMMDA over the past two years include developing and implementing the organization's first Strategic Plan in recent history, and he has been instrumental in efforts to standardize practices across USAMMDA's five project management offices as well as to optimize business processes across the entire command.
Under his leadership, USAMMDA reached a successful Milestone C for the Environmental Sentinel Biomonitor, which can identify toxicity in water from chemicals, and the system has already been used by troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Syria. Geesey also engaged leaders across the AMEDD to procure and field soft-wall and rigid-wall shelters that meet safety and expeditionary requirements for deploying military Field Hospitals.
Although his influence was clearly a major factor in these and other accomplishments during his command, Geesey often downplays his contributions while praising the efforts of his USAMMDA team.
"USAMMDA was already a very mature organization when I arrived, nurtured by its past commanders," said Geesey. "I could see that it was ready to move to the next level, and I believe we've made some great strides together in that direction.
"For example, look at our work on the Strategic Plan." he continued. "It's not really a starting point and an ending point – it's a pathway forward to the future. It's a roadmap for continuous process improvement."
The commander is leaving USAMMDA well prepared for its future endeavors, as he heads for his new assignment as AMEDD Board president. This tour may be two to four years, he said, and he is looking forward to life in Texas as well as the new people he will meet. However, between now and 2021, the year of his mandatory retirement from the Army, he'll continue to enjoy both his military career and his family.
"What happens after that is anyone's guess," he joked.
"I've always entered into new assignments not knowing what was next, so I'll just take it as it comes. I've already been in the military a lot longer than I ever imagined I'd be!"
Geesey said that after his military career ends, he may be interested in pursuing work with non-governmental organizations, and non-profits, like his parents did.
"I know that I'll do something that involves 'giving back,' because I know how satisfying it is," he said. "My parents had a very nice life, and they were very happy with their work – that's the tradition I'd like to continue."
When asked for his final thoughts on USAMMDA, and the team he has led for two years, Geesey wasted no time in providing an answer.
"It all goes back to the ethos of our organization, 'United in Service to our Nation's Warfighters,'" he said. "USAMMDA has a great mission, and a tremendous team to carry out this mission. We should continue to press forward and advance products to our military men and women as quickly as possible, despite the obstacles. This team has learned many creative ways to overcome difficulties, and I was continually impressed and amazed by USAMMDA's ability to make it happen.
"Stay motivated and keep moving forward. Many great things lie ahead for this command, and I will truly miss being a part of your successes. It's been entirely too short – it went by way too quickly."
From the commander's own words, this may seem like just another example of time flying by when you're having so much fun – but in this case, many would agree that fun was merely a byproduct of great leadership.