Students seek, but don't always find, people in power NORTH -- Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

February 11, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

The first lesson of life on Capitol Hill is one of the hardest: It's not easy to get a meeting with the people with the power.

But for North Carroll High School junior Joel Geyer, the next best thing to meeting the powerful was getting to rub shoulders with their staffers yesterday.

He's hoping for a congressional appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Young Geyer, 16, of Hampstead, is one of 350 high school students from all states who were chosen to participate in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Security and Defense this week in Washington.

Program admission coordinator Shannon McFall said yesterday the students were chosen because of their academic excellence and because they had indicated in a classroom survey their interest in a military career.

Participants paid $735 for the six-day forum. The fee included everything except lunches, Ms. McFall said.

Joel said his fee was paid by sponsorships from several VFW posts in District 7. They also gave him spending money for the week.

The forum's opening dinner Tuesday night featured a speech by Adm. William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Yesterday afternoon, the students were scheduled to talk with retired Gen. Alexander Haig.

"Just being in the presence of someone who's been a commander of NATO and all that other stuff . . . "it's incredible," said Joel.

Also, the boys and girls visited nearby military sites such as the Pentagon, the National War College, Andrews Air Force Base and the Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

However, for Joel, the highlight of the experience was the chance to lobby for a military academy appointment.

As a cadet with the Carroll County squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, he has done his share of flying.

He said, "I've seen plenty of F-16s." He has flown in C-130s and C-141s.

"Not too many people my age can say that," he reflected.

He wants to be a pilot and a career military officer, and he was hoping yesterday to speak with Sen. Paul Sarbanes and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett about that ambition.

However, Senator Sarbanes was in Baltimore yesterday, and Representative Bartlett was in Frederick.

But Joel took advantage of a meeting with Seth Statler, a Sarbanes staffer. After Mr. Statler explained the senator's duties and handed out copies of a guidebook called "Welcome to Washington," he opened the floor to questions and answers.

Joel had plenty.

What will the senator do to protect military jobs and the nation's industrial base?

And, has he addressed the problem of increasing American dependency on foreign-produced weapons systems?

And, what does he look for in a potential appointee to the U.S. Air Force Academy?

Well-roundedness, Mr. Statler said, was important.

Joel has a 3.52 grade point average ("A 'D' in general typing messed up my life," he said.) He also wrestles and plays lacrosse and volleyball, and is a member of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Snydersburg. He holds a job doing landscaping and farm work for a Hampstead man.

That's in addition to his work with the Civil Air Patrol, where he holds the title of Flight Officer, and helps with search-and-rescue and disaster-relief missions.

Military life and aviation are in his blood. His father, Carl Geyer, was an Army sergeant in Vietnam, and his uncle was a Marine.

His grandfather, Franz Geyer, worked on B-26 planes during World War II. Later, he worked on electrical systems of experimental aircraft and in the Gemini space program.

Airplanes fill Joel's room. The wallpaper features a jet-fighter lTC border. On one wall hangs a cross-stitched Air Force emblem embroidered by his mother, Sandra Geyer. There are aviation posters and photos and shelves of model airplanes.

The youth can recite the vital statistics of each plane in the collection -- when they were made, what they were used for, and what air pressure their tires require.

In Washington yesterday morning, he and two other youths from the 6th Congressional District met with Debra Royal, legislative director for Mr. Bartlett.

Joel peppered her with questions about the congressman's positions on defense; it came out in the conversation that her husband, also named Joel, had attended the Naval Academy.

Saying goodbye, Mrs. Royal told the boys to call her if they were interested in an academy appointment.

Once safely in the hall, Joel Geyer gave an excited thumbs-up. "Now she knows my name. That's great," he said. "Her husband has my name. Now she won't forget me. I'm in. I'm in the Air Force Academy."

He shrugged off Mrs. Royal's suggestion that he have a second choice in case he doesn't get into the Air Force Academy.

"I'll get it," he said. "If I want it bad enough, I'll get it."

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