The former Breckenridge resident participates in ICEX, a biannual Arctic exercise hosted by the US 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 to about a month ago, and you found Shumway on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean when he took part in the biannual US Navy exercise called ICEX, where temperatures were 10 degrees below zero without taking wind chill into account.
Shumway is currently stationed in San Diego, CA. He works primarily at an administrative supervisor supporting the galleys and culinary divisions of US Navy submarines.
“My job is to play a support role, helping them with training, leadership development, sanitation, acting as a health inspector for submarines, going down and making sure that things are cleaned and (are) safe because if people get sick at sea, that’s a very difficult problem to overcome and can prevent a ship from carrying out its national duties,” Shumway said.
Growing up, Shumway said he didn’t give much thought to a career in the Navy. The Colorado Springs native spent weekends in Breckenridge with his family at their second home during his youth. In 2007, his family moved to this home full time so he could compete on Team Summit’s alpine racing team.
After a few years in Summit County, Shumway and his family moved back to Colorado Springs where he graduated from Air Academy High School. Afterwards, he started attending Colorado State University, but he was not passionate about his studies.
“That freshman year of college at Colorado State University College, I kind of got lost in my path,” Shumway said. “I started working in the kitchens and really discovered the love of cooking.”
Shortly after, a friend of Shumway’s told him about his experience in the navy. Joining the military branch was not a far-fetched idea for Shumway since both of his grandfathers had served. As soon as Shumway learned that the Navy had a culinary division, he was hooked.
“I was told beforehand that the culinary training of submarines is very high due to the unique operational aspect of submarines. Having to be gone so long, the subs tend to get the best food and we get the best trained cooks because our morale really depends on that food,” Shumway said. “It was a big selling point for me and helped me join the Navy and get more direction.”
While Shumway’s day-to-day work is based in San Diego, one of the more recent drills was based in an environment not entirely dissimilar to Summit County.
ICEX is a three-week, bi-annual 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 welcomes service members 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 held in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. He was also responsible for water management and ensuring that the entire camp – which housed up to 63 people at any one time – had enough water for at least three days.
Shumway departed for exercise February 18 and returned March 18. Meanwhile, the average temperature without wind chill was 10 degrees below zero. At one point, he said temperatures had dropped to 50 degrees below zero. But Shumway said he doesn’t care too much about the temperatures. In fact, he said the surroundings were breathtaking and he got to see the Northern Lights every night.
“It was absolutely pristine,” Shumway said. “It was beautiful. It really brought me back to growing up in Colorado. Living here in San Diego for eight years, I don’t get to visit the mountains anymore, so I miss that cold and snow a lot – that peace and serenity that comes with winter in the mountains. It was really nice and nostalgic for me.
That didn’t mean the exercise wasn’t difficult. Shumway said it was difficult to ensure there was enough drinking water for the crew. He couldn’t just hook up a lot of heaters to a generator lest he go out. Instead, he dug 12-foot holes in the ice so his team could run a pipe through the water and pump it out. From there, they used a reverse osmosis machine to make the seawater drinkable.
Shumway said the experience left its mark on him. Hollis Shumway, Casey’s mother who has lived in Breckenridge full-time for three years, said she was proud her son had found his purpose through the Navy.
“His experience with the Navy was amazing, and (it was) entirely his fault for getting there. I think he was a big contributor – that he totally led there and did that,” Hollis said. “He liked it a lot. I totally understand that the military isn’t necessarily for everyone, but for him it’s a snap and it’s a wonderful feeling to see a kid doing so well.