Corey McIver – Kuwait & Afghanistan

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Corey McIver during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.

By Lura Jackson

Being in the military often enables soldiers to determine what kind of profession and work environment they would flourish in. In the case of Corey McIver, his experience in the military enabled him to recognize that he preferred the role of being a leader, and that is exactly what he has become. 

Raised in Baileyville, McIver worked at his uncle Ron O’Brien’s garage as a mechanic while he was in high school. After spending a year in Washington County Community College’s automotive program, he decided it was time to leave the area and do something different. Less than a week after graduating in 1993, he visited the Army recruitment station and was quickly enlisted. A few days later, he found himself in boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

The eight weeks of boot camp were initially a struggle for McIver. “A lot of people didn’t think I’d make it because there’s somebody in your face screaming all the time,” McIver recalls. “But, I looked at it as if it was a game and that was their part of the game that they had to do.” After boot camp, McIver was trained in his selected profession. While McIver had previously told the recruitment officer that the one thing he didn’t want to do was to be a mechanic, that is exactly what he was enlisted to do, in part due to a generous sign on bonus. The fourteen weeks of mechanic school felt redundant and overly basic after McIver’s time at WCCC.

After boot camp, his first tour was in Vilseck, Germany. While there, he was a light vehicle mechanic. “I went all over the area,” McIver said, describing visiting towns near the Austrian and French borders. “I loved it. It was a lot like Maine.”

For three years, McIver served as a mechanic in Germany before going to Fort Campbell, Kentucky to attend air assault school. After that, personal circumstances led him to come home to Maine for about a year. It proved to be a less than desirable situation for him, however. “I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to go back,” McIver said.

McIver signed up for the National Guard in 2000. Right after 9/11, he was sent to the northern border to provide additional security. In 2003, he was deployed to Kuwait. At the time, the group he was stationed with was not entirely compatible with his particular work ethic, which caused some challenges for McIver during the 15 months they were gone. 

Once they returned, many of McIver’s unit dispersed. It quickly refilled with soldiers that McIver described as wanting to be there and who “knew what the deal was.” He served as a weekend warrior until 2009 when he had the opportunity to take over the Calais Armory. As soon as he’d agreed to take that post, however, he was given orders to go to Kabul, Afghanistan.

As a result of the knowledge McIver had acquired working construction as a civilian with Atlantic Defense Contractors, he was given the assignment of Contractor Officer Representative. The role involved hiring personnel, writing contracts, and ensuring that contracts were adhered to. “I was kind of the middle man between the money from the government and the contractor.” 

In his new position, McIver had 1,300 Afghanis working for him. The biggest challenge was the language barrier, but the difference in basic infrastructure also took some getting used to. While in the states, power outlets and accompanying plugs are standard, in Afghanistan wires are inserted directly into outlets with no plug involved. “There were a lot of challenges,” McIver said. “They do things entirely differently.” Despite the challenges, McIver greatly appreciated being his own boss.

Other challenges arose from the culture. McIver would occasionally meet with the head of the Afghanis he was working with, and each time it would involve copious amounts of local cuisine and tea. McIver had never been a tea drinker, and the tea there was not sifted. Furthermore, he preferred green tea rather than black tea, and would be harassed for it, since green tea was mainly consumed by women or those who were sick.

One time, when McIver was assigned to a quick reactionary force, one of the wealthiest men in the community came by to trade for items. To show his appreciation, the man brought in a sheep and killed it. The sheep’s cooked head was served as the centerpiece of a platter with rice all around it. They sat as many people as they could at the table and began eating with their fingers. Though McIver was encouraged to try the eyes, he refrained from doing so. Today, McIver continues to maintain positive relations with some of his Afghani acquaintances, one of whom wished him well on his recent birthday.

When he returned to the states after a year in Afghanistan, McIver reconnected with a high school companion, Lynn Doten, and they married. He officially assumed the role of running the Calais Armory transportation detachment division, which he continued until May of 2017. He had been previously diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and felt that it was time for him to move on. He officially retired on Friday, October 27th, 2017, after 24 and a half years in the military.

 

While he does not regret any of his time in the service, McIver is disappointed that his illness prevented him from completing 20 years in active duty and receiving a full retirement. “It was frustrating at first because I didn’t leave on my own terms,” McIver said. “But I wouldn’t trade any of it.” He now lives in Princeton and is fully self-employed, handling plow contracts, lawncare, and tree removal.