By Sgt. John Couffer, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division Public AffairsJanuary 3, 2012
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- Sitting on the side of a short concrete t-wall, he sports blue jeans, a brown Carhartt jacket, and comfortable athletic shoes. Topping off the ensemble is a tan ballcap embroidered with his unit's insignia; it is a fitting outfit for his personality.
"I like to make people smile at least once a day," said Charles City, Iowa native, Shawn McCumber, a civilian contractor assigned as the Digital Master Gunner to the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.
McCumber said that he is a caring person and tries to make the working environment friendly.
"He tries to joke with people, and make sure you are happy," said, Capt. Charles Gwynn of Gordon Nebraska, the deputy communications officer for the communications shop, assigned to the Irohorse Brigade. "He's just a great person to be around."
Gwynn has worked on and off with McCumber over the past few years and knows the compassion McCumber shows to others.
"He's always thinking of someone else. If you ever need anything, you can ask him and he'll do his best to make it happen," Gwynn said.
McCumber has been making Soldiers of the Ironhorse Brigade smile for about five and a half years, but before becoming a contractor, he was a Soldier himself.
He enlisted as an 11M, an infantryman assigned to a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. After devoting three and a half years to his country, McCumber medically retired.
"I wanted to stay in. I loved the military, I loved the life," McCumber said. He mentioned that he tried everything in his power to stay in the Army.
After receiving an honorable discharge, he began searching for a job that would allow him to work as close to the military as possible. That is when he decided to become a contractor.
"Since I couldn't be Soldier, [I wanted] to make sure they got supported as much as they could," McCumber said sincerely.
One Soldier explained that McCumber is always willing to share his knowledge and experience with equipment to Soldiers who are willing to learn.
"He has given some demonstrations on his systems and some of the [other] systems he works on," Sgt. Bradley Rosborough, an Elgin, Ohio native and information systems operator assigned to the Ironhorse Brigade.
Rosborough said that McCumber helps people when they ask, right there on the spot, aiding them in accomplishing their mission.
McCumber's support for the troops stretches beyond his job as a Digital Master Gunner.
Rosborough explained that McCumber also believes events held by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center are for the Soldiers and not him. For example, according to Rosborough, McCumber won't attend concerts hosted by the MWR because McCumber claims those events are solely for the troops and not civilians. Rosborough went on to say that McCumber feels all events and occasions should be for those who do the work and wear the uniform.
In addition to his support and work behind the scenes, McCumber said that raising people's spirits is also part of who he is. He said that it is this quality that led to his purchase and donation of the Santa and elf costumes for Christmas, and why he helped coordinate holiday events that benefited Ironhorse Soldiers who are currently deployed in Kuwait.
McCumber said he is proud to be part of something that helped Soldiers take a break from the normal routine of deployment.
"Seeing the Soldiers smile, point and laugh; for that instance, they forgot everything and saw Santa Clause," McCumber said with a genuine smile of giving on his face. "I can say that I had a contributing factor in making sure that Soldiers at least got a smile around Christmas."
For some Soldiers, seeing Santa was a relief and they took joy in knowing that Santa came to see them.
"When I stepped out the door and heard the helicopter, I knew Santa Clause was in there," Gwynn said with a smile. "I couldn't help but laugh and smile."
Gwynn went on to say that McCumber was the kind of guy that wanted to make sure that everyone had a good time at Christmas.
Thinking into the future, McCumber said there will be changes that he will have to make when it comes his career as a contractor. He said that the DSE program he is in is going to transition to the Department of Defense, which will eliminate his position. McCumber said that regardless of what changes are to come, he is glad to be where is - with the troops.
"I'm extremely happy with what I do. I like being down here with [Soldiers], I like being in the dirt," McCumber concluded.
Gwynn and Rosborough both said that if McCumber is required to leave because of the changes in his job, that he will be missed because of his knowledge and experience, and his caring and giving attitude that he shows to the Soldiers.