Human communication expert, leadership coach, wanna-be mountaineer, & world's ok-est guitar player.

What will you do with your one wild, precious life?

Joe Plenzler-201608190C7A9753 blue.jpg




Toledo, OH


B.S. Architecture, The Ohio State University, 1994

M.A. Mass Communication & Media Studies, San Diego State University, 2010

Fellow, Seminar XXI, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2012

Georgetown University, Certificate in Organization Development and Change Leadership Management, 2020

Georgetown University, Certificate in Facilitation, 2021

Georgetown University, Certificate in Coaching, 2022


Partner in crime

Kate Germano

Joe was born on September 22, 1971 in Toledo, Ohio.  He attended The Ohio State University where he studied architecture under Frank Fantauzzi and was a member of the Ohio State University Mountaineering Club.  After a 1994 winter attempt on Long's Peak (successful) and a 1995 winter attempt on the Grand Teton (completely blown off the mountain), he joined the United States Marine Corps and became an infantry officer.

In the summer of 1997, he met the love of his life, another Marine officer, Kate Germano, and they married in 1999.  That same year, Joe also attended the Defense Information School and earned a secondary military occupational specialty as a public affairs officer.  

While working for General James N. Mattis from 2001-2003, he planned and executed the largest media embed program in Marine Corps history during the invasion of Iraq.  He narrowly survived an ambush that seriously injured two of his six-man team on March 23, 2003 as his convoy shot their way out of the town of Az Zubayr.  


But wait, there's more!

Countries visited



furthest place visited

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands


most epic trips

Hiking all 84 miles of Hadrian’s Wall, UK, 2022

Climbing Tahoma (Mt. Rainier) 14,410’, 2021

Iceland, 2021

Section-hiking the Appalachian Trail, 2016 - present

Climbing the Grand Teton, 13,775’, 2015

Trekking Vietnam, 2006

Climbing Mt. Fuji, 12,389’ (twice!), 1997, 1999

Climbing Long’s Peak, 14,259’, 1994

Hiking the Grand Canyon, (twice!) 1993, 1997


Miles of the Appalachian Trail completed so far




Neil Pryde Alize w/ Shimano Di2 electronic shifting




In 2005, Joe served as the senior U.S. military spokesperson in Medan & Banda Aceh, Indonesia during the disaster relief mission in the wake of the December 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that devastated much of Northern Sumatra. From 2008 to 2009, he ran the Marine Corps' Drill Instructor School.  During the last five years of his Marine Corps career, he served in the Pentagon as the spokesman, press secretary, and staff group director for the 34th, 35th, and 36th Commandants of the Marine Corps.  

Joe retired after 20 years of active duty service in 2015 and became the executive vice president of marketing and membership at the U.S. Naval Institute.  Beginning in 2017, he served as the director of media relations for America’s largest veteran service organization - defending veterans' rights and benefits. From 2018 to 2021, he served as Wounded Warrior Project’s communications director. He is a founding partner of Cassandra-Helenus Partners - a leadership development and human communication firm, and a sweat-equity partner in Somete Technology Group. In 2021, Joe signed on as a founding partner of Data Valuation Ventures - an artificial intelligence company specializing in appraising and valuating data sets. He is a professor of practice at the College of Southern Maryland and George Washington University where he teaches public speaking and communication strategy. He sits on the board of We The Veterans - a group committed to countering disinformation, reducing extremist violence, and encouraging positive civic engagement. He is an advisory board member of Veteran Business Project.

Joe also helped Kate Germano and Kelly Kennedy publish their book Fight Like A Girl: The truth behind how female Marines are trained by writing Chapters 27 & 29. He has appeared on national television to include CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN and more. His writings have been published in many national outlets to include the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, the Daily Beast, and Defense One.


Joe's skills:

  • Public relations strategy

  • Thought leadership strategy

  • Reputation management

  • Values inculcation

  • Media relations

  • Carpentry & bricklaying

  • Cooking

  • Rock climbing & mountaineering

  • Long-distance hiking

  • Kayaking

  • Cycling


Contact Joe

Joe lives and works in Washington, DC. If you want to give him a shout, fill out the form below.







“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild, precious life?”

-Mary Oliver