Former Breckenridge resident participates in ICEX, a biannual Arctic exercise hosted by the US Navy
Casey Shumway participated with Team Summit before enlisting in the Navy
Casey Shumway loves the cold. When he was in high school, he convinced his family to move from Colorado Springs to Breckenridge so he could compete with Team Summit.
Fast forward from then to about a month ago, and you would find Shumway on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean when he participated in the U.S. Navy’s biannual ice exercise called ICEX, where temperatures were 10 degrees below zero without factoring in windchill.
Shumway is currently stationed San Diego, California. He primarily works at an administrative supervisor supporting the U.S. Navy’s submarines’ gallies and culinary divisions.
“My job is to be a support role, help them with training, leadership development, sanitation, operate as a health inspector for the submarines, going down and making sure that things are being cleaned and (are) safe because if people get sick out to sea, it’s a very difficult problem to overcome and can take away a ship’s ability to do its national tasking,” Shumway said.
Growing up, Shumway said he hadn’t thought about a career in the Navy much. The Colorado Springs native spent weekends in Breckenridge with his family at their second home during his youth. In 2007, his family moved into that home full-time so he could compete on Team Summit’s Alpine racing team.
After a couple of years in Summit County, Shumway and his family moved back to Colorado Springs where he gradated from Air Academy High School. Afterward, he began attending Colorado State University, but he wasn’t passionate about his studies.
“That first year of college at College at Colorado State University, I just kind of became a little lost in my way,” Shumway said. “I started working in kitchens and really found a love of cooking.”
Shortly thereafter, a friend of Shumway’s told him about his experience in the Navy. Joining the military branch wasn’t a far-fetched idea for Shumway since both his grandfathers had served. As soon as Shumway learned that the Navy had a culinary division, he was hooked.
“I was told beforehand, the culinary training for submarines is very high because of the unique operational aspect of submarines. Having to be gone for so long, subs tend to get the best food and we get the best-trained cooks because our morale really hinges on that food,” Shumway said. “That was a big selling point for me and helped lead me toward joining the Navy and get more direction.”
While Shumway’s day-to-day job is based out of San Diego, one of the more recent exercises was based in an environment not entirely unlike Summit County.
ICEX is a biannual, three-week exercise where the Navy assesses its operational readiness in the Arctic, increases experience and understanding of the environment, and provides the opportunity to develop relationships with other services, allies and partner organizations.
The exercise hosts militaries from around the world as well as scientists and media influencers. During the exercise, Shumway’s responsibility was to develop the camp menu prior to the exercise, which was to be hosted at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. He was also responsible for water management and ensuring that the entire camp — which hosted up to 63 people at any given point — had enough water for at least three days.
Shumway departed for the exercise on Feb. 18 and returned on March 18. During that time, the average temperature without windchill was 10 degrees below zero. At one point, he said temperatures dropped to 50 degrees below zero. But Shumway said he didn’t mind the temperatures too much. In fact, he said the environment was breathtaking and that he got to see the northern lights each night.
“It was absolutely pristine,” Shumway. “It was beautiful. It really brought me back to growing up in Colorado. Living here in San Diego for the past eight years, I don’t get the chance to visit the mountains anymore, so I miss a lot of that cold and the snow — that peace and serenity that comes with the wintertime in the mountains. That was really enjoyable and nostalgic for me.”
That didn’t mean the exercise wasn’t challenging. Shumway said making sure there was enough drinking water for the crew was tricky. He couldn’t simply plug in a lot of heating devices to a generator for fear of it blowing out. Instead, he dug 12-foot holes through the ice so his team could run a hose into the water and pump it. From there, they used a reverse osmosis machine to make the sea water drinkable.
Shumway said the experience left a mark on him. Hollis Shumway, Casey’s mother who has lived in Breckenridge full-time for the last three years, said she’s proud that her son has found his purpose through the Navy.
“His experience with the Navy has just been amazing, and (it) was totally his doing in getting there. I think that was an important contributor — that he totally steered going there and doing this,” Hollis said. “It’s been a good fit for him. I totally understand that the military is not necessarily a good fit for everybody, but for him, it’s clicked and that’s a wonderful feeling to see a child to do so well.”
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