By Mr. Johnathon Orrell (SDDC)July 13, 2018
Samantha "Sami" Chumbley, a civil engineer with the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's (SDDC) Transportation Engineering Agency (TEA) at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, is the 12th person to be featured in the "Surface Warrior Spotlight" July 13.
She was nominated by Curt Zargan, the deputy director of the Transportation Engineering Agency, for her performance, attitude and enthusiasm.
"Sami is one of our top performing, up and coming young engineers -- and one who is well-rounded in the sense of being a good performer, but also a consistent volunteer for special projects and events, as well playing a big role in the TEA Booster Club," he said.
"Moreover, it has been exciting to watch her successfully transition through the intern program and incrementally advance in grade," he added.
Sami has been with SDDC and TEA since May 2015, where she is a civil engineer working on overseas seaport assessments to ensure potential strategic seaports have the proper infrastructure for moving military equipment and personnel.
This is something she says she never imagined working on when she started in civil engineering, but it is something she has become passionate about.
"I enjoy what I do because I feel like I am part of the fight," she said. "By performing Other Than Continental United States (OCONUS) seaport assessments, I ensure the military has capable locations to move their equipment and personnel during contingency operations."
"Our assessments allow the military to get to the fight quickly and efficiently," she added.
According to co-workers and friends, Sami is a great teammate and someone with a big heart who goes out of her way to make sure the job is done right the first time, every time. This is why they say she was a natural fit for the "Surface Warrior Spotlight."
"Sami is a motivating and driving force that propels the TEA team toward our goal and our mission," said Jamie Brown, a transportation systems analyst with TEA. "She radiates positive energy in everything she does."
Now it is time to bring Sami into the Spotlight.
Q: Before working at SDDC, what was the most unusual or interesting job you've ever had?
A: I've done everything from construction to working at a candy store, but the most interesting job I've had was with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project we were working on was repairing a dam in Tennessee that was actively failing. The way we were rehabilitating it was by drilling down 700-plus feet throughout the length of the earthen part of the dam and pouring a concrete wall. Between emergency situations when we lost all water in the hole we were drilling because we found a cave and had to emergency backfill, to seeing all of the core samples that could contain oil in one location and crystals in another, the job was filled with unexpected events every day.
Q: What is your motto or personal mantra?
A: I try to treat everyone with the same respect I want, I try to have patience with my three-year-old son Leland and teach him to calm down and handle a situation instead of getting worked up over it, and I try to be the best wife I can be to my husband Chris. If I can somehow create a decent human being out my son and continue to show my husband how much I love and appreciate him, I think I'll be doing okay.
Q: What did you want to be when growing up?
A: I wanted to be a pediatric cardiologist. I watched 'Something the Lord Made,' a phenomenal movie that I recommend to everyone, and I decided right then and there I wanted to help save blue babies. I went to college with pre-med as my declared major and got through my freshman year and the first round of biology. My sophomore year, and my next round of biology, gave me the sudden realization that I could not/would not be a doctor. It was after I started working construction with my dad, that I realized I loved building things and the process of building things. So I changed my degree path from pre-med to civil engineering. I also realized that my handwriting was too nice to be a doctor.
Q: If you could switch jobs with anyone else within SDDC, whose job would you want?
A: I would LOVE to work within Intel. I have this idea of what it is, but I might be thinking too Nancy Drew. I just don't know…but I want to know! How cool would it be to be constantly monitoring today's world through various outlets, trying to piece together a puzzle? A puzzle of infinite number of pieces. I don't have any Intel training, but I'm usually too nosy for my own good, so I would probably be a great fit.
Q: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?
A: I would LOVE to see Jennifer Lawrence cast as myself. She is a fantastic person. She isn't afraid to be who she is, she challenges the 'typical stereotypes' of a young female actress, and she seems to have a blast doing it. She's strong and independent and that's how I would like to think I am.
Q: What does true leadership mean to you?
A: I think about this often. Good leadership is so important to me. A good leader can make a place amazing and a bad leader can it make the worst place on earth. True leadership is so many things, but to list a few, it includes:
1. Trust in your people to do their job. Quit micromanaging. It's not healthy for anyone.
2. Be able to communicate with your team. This includes the good and the bad. So many leaders can give you a compliment, but it takes a true leader to tell you the negative comments in a way that you can improve.
3. Don't take credit. Your job is to provide your professional team with the tools and skills to do their job. True leaders don't make it about themselves; they make it about the success of the team. Besides, if the team is successful, then it speaks wonders about the leader.
Q: What is your favorite sport?
A: Volleyball. I started playing competitive volleyball at age 12. Throughout high school, I played on the varsity team all four years, and continued to play competitive volleyball year-round until college. When it came time for college, I went to the Pittsburg State University in Kansas and played volleyball for two years before a shoulder injury took me out for good. While playing volleyball, I also coached 14-year-old kids in competitive volleyball. It was probably one of the coolest things I've ever done. My love for volleyball isn't just about the physical sport. To be a good volleyball player you have to be smart and strategic and loud. The more talking done on the court, the better your team is going to play. From complementing teammates on great plays, to talking strategy, if I was on the court it was never quiet. With volleyball I grew into a confident and strong woman, not afraid to take on the world. That's why coaching was so amazing for me. I wasn't there just to sharpen volleyball skills for these young women, I was there to be a life coach for them. At 14 they were getting ready to go conquer the world of high school. High school can eat you up and spit you out if you're not ready for it. I made it my personal goal to make sure every single player walked off my court more confident in themselves, both in volleyball and in life.
Q: What is your greatest phobia?
A: I'm TERRIFIED of the dark. You can put me in a room full of bugs or snakes or spiders and I will scream bloody murder, but I will make it through. If you put me in a pitch black room, I'm not moving. I'm not even making a whimper. It petrifies me. I believe my overactive imagination is the reason for this phobia. I don't know what's there, so my mind tries to fill in the unknown with some of the scariest stuff ever. I'll just leave a light on.
Q: What is the favorite part about working at SDDC?
A: SDDC is built on a family mentality and if you're going to have to be here for 40 hours a week, it's good to be with family. SDDC is very involved in moving all pieces of the fight and I love being able to be a part of that. I feel like I really make a difference in the fight and that if I don't do my job, the fight might not turn out the way we would like it. I feel like I'm really supporting my country and my military, while being around a group of people that make the work environment welcoming.
Q: What are your top three life highlights so far?
A: This is an easy one:
1. The birth of my son, Leland. He's three now though, so please don't come by my house. There are toys everywhere and I'm probably yelling at my son (again) to put some pants on or to quit chasing the dogs and throwing his toys at them. He's cute though.
2. The marriage to my husband, Chris. We've been married four years now. He's usually instigating Leland's rowdiness and is as hard-headed as I am. He puts up with my hard-headedness and mood swings well, though. He's also cute.
3. This one time when I had the day off, and Leland was at daycare, and Chris was at work and I sat on the couch all day long and didn't do anything but binge watch The Crown. That was a good day.
Q: What is one thing you have always wanted to try but never did?
A: I've always wanted to try sky diving. I don't know why anyone would WANT to jump out of a perfectly good plane, but I want to! I'm also getting butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it. I am such a chicken, but one day I will get on a plane and jump out of it.
Q: What is the worst thing you did as a kid?
A: Just ask my sister. I was not very nice to her and I tried to blame everything on her. (It probably was her fault, though). Between writing my name in the bathroom with Crayon and blaming her (she was like three and couldn't even write her own name), to refusing to take her places with me and my friends because it wasn't cool to have your little sister tag along, I was not the warm and fuzzy older sister. Today, though, we're thick as thieves... as long as we don't have to stay in the same house together for too long. I always take credit for how tough she is today after she put up with me for so many years. Love you, Maggie!
Q: What TV show or movie are you ashamed to admit you love?
A: I am not ashamed of any show or movie I love. I don't care if you think I'm a nerd, a softie, or just weird, I will proudly watch my shows and love every minute of them. Also, if you haven't watched '13 Reasons Why' on Netflix, you should. If you have an eighth grader or older, I would recommend they watch it with you. Parents might want to get through it first so you know the emotions involved with it.
Q: What is the first concert you attended?
A: My first concert was Garth Brooks. And from that day on, I just KNEW I was going to marry him. Never mind that he's 27 years older than me, it didn't matter. He was my future husband. So after he married Trisha Yearwood, I realized that our marriage might not happen and I should probably move on. Still, to this day, he is one my absolute favorite artists. His music truly had some of the best messages ever about equality and togetherness. Garth is my man! For the record, my husband rolls his eyes every time a Garth song comes on, because he knows I'm about to crank it!
Q: What do you like to do on your days off?
A: I should be doing laundry, but instead I throw open the blinds, curl up on the couch with the dogs and cats, and binge watch 'Dexter' or anything on Netflix. This is my time to just worry about if I'm good rather than chase around a three-year-old or figure out what everyone wants for dinner. So me and the animals curl up under a big blanket and relax.
Q: What is your least favorite food?
A: Bananas. I'm talking like I can't even stand the smell of them. Please, if you see me and you are eating a banana, don't holler for me to come over. I will, but it will be awful for me. Because I hate bananas. They're slimy and they stink. Ok, let's not talk about this anymore.
Q: If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
A: I would love to work in a greenhouse for one day. I love being able to play in the dirt and grow plants that can feed us or just brighten our day. Having a greenhouse is one of my goals in the future. I want to be able to grow all the vegetables my family would need and maybe even sell some as well. (Editor's note, she is also very passionate and informed on the plight of the honeybee, just ask her some day).
Q: How would you describe your personality?
A: I'm weird. I'm shy when I don't know you, but once I get to know you I won't stop talking. I tend to be headstrong and hard-headed, with a tendency to take control of the situation if there's struggle involved. I am learning, now as a mom, that it's okay for people to struggle, because they learn from it. I'll be loyal until you give me a reason not to be, and I trust from the start.
Q: If you had to eat one meal, every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Thanksgiving Day sides. Ok, so it's not really a meal, but it is my all-time favorite. You can keep your turkey and ham, just give me the homemade mac 'n cheese, the mashed potatoes and gravy, the stuffing, and don't forget the King's Hawaiian rolls! Aaaaaand now I'm hungry.
Q: If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it?
A: Samantha Chumbley's Life Book: If it seems crazy, it probably is.
Q: What are three things on your bucket list?
A: My three things without a doubt are:
1. Have another baby. My son needs someone else to pester besides mom and dad.
2. Go skydiving. There go the butterflies again.
3. Get to a place in my life where I can take on some of my extended family's debt. I want to be able to help pay for my in-laws' and my parents' bills. Not because they can't afford it, but because they've supported my husband and I literally since birth. I want to pay it back.
Q: What is the one thing you can't live without?
A: My family. Every other thing I can live without, but I could not survive without my family - they are my everything. I work hard to be a better person for them, and they work hard to give me all the support and love I need. You could take everything away from me, but as long as I've got them, we'll figure it out.
Q: If you were an animal what would you be?
A: I think I would want to be a dog - in a good and loving home. They seem to have all this energy, plus, they sleep all day long. They're smart and caring. They can make you feel better with just a snuggle.
Q: If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see?
A: I want to see Janis Joplin perform. That girl sang with a voice and message beyond her years. I would have loved to see her perform and to meet her. All I can say is don't do drugs.
Q: What has been your favorite project at SDDC?
A: I was given the opportunity to help with the third floor hallway redesign. I represented TEA and worked with leadership to develop the TEA portion of the wall. It turned out fantastic! It's not just pictures; it's a chain, a traffic light, and a computer monitor all hung on a wall. It's the various publications we develop every day. It truly tells the story of TEA, and I am so honored to have been a part of that.
Q: What were you like as a teenager?
A: As a teenager, I was similar to how I am now. I was shy unless I really got to know you. I was friends with pretty much everyone in my small school, but I had a select group of best friends. I played volleyball throughout high school and it is my volleyball career that really made me learn to step out of my comfort zone and not be afraid to take charge, but also know when to step back and listen. I'm still working on the second part of that.
Q: What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?
A: The first thing I would do with lottery winnings is pay off my family's debt, my in-laws' debt, my parents' debt, my sister's debt, and my sister-in-law's debt -- not that they are bad with money, but we all have some debt of some kind. After that I'd grab a McDouble from McDonalds with a medium fry and a large Diet Coke.
Q: What is the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
A: Chocolate covered cricket. They taste like a crunch bar, but it was hard to get the legs to go down. I ate them in a high school class; we were reading some book related to it. I would not do it now. I've become kind of a wimp.
Q: What is your hidden talent?
A: Easy…I can wiggle my right ear. It's pretty amazing. If you ever want to see, just stop me in the hall. It really is quite the amazing talent (she says as she laughs).
Q: Where is your favorite place to eat, and why?
A: My mom's or my grandma's or my husband's mom's or my husband's grandma's house. I am surrounded by people who can cook. I will take one of their home-cooked meals over any restaurant any day.
SDDC's "Surface Warrior Spotlight" program highlights different members of the SDDC workforce every few weeks through a series of interview-style questions that focus on his or her unique background, personal stories and experiences.
Take a look at Sami's Surface Warrior Spotlight video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/p71TeQe5ztA.