From Tragedy of Haiti Quake, Thousands of Veterans Find Purpose with Team Rubicon

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Veteran-led disaster response group grows from 8 to 22,000 members

Team Rubicon volunteers, mainly military veterans, helped Pateros, Wash., cleanup following the worst wildfire in the state's history. Team Rubicon photo by Kirk Jackson.

Through our shared experiences and desire to serve, we build a bridge between the civilian-military divide and make a better, more unified country for all our citizens.

When Haiti was brought to its knees by an earthquake five years ago, former Marines Jake Wood and William McNulty ignored naysayers and quickly assembled a small team of fellow veterans and first responders to help—arriving in Port-au-Prince within five days.

They called themselves Team Rubicon and would provide medical care to thousands of Haitians over the next 20 days. Little did they know, they would also change the lives of thousands of Americans at home.

“When I left the Marines, even while pursuing an MBA, I was deathly afraid of a life void of purpose,” said Wood, Team Rubicon CEO. “Witnessing the Haiti earthquake's aftermath ignited within me not just compassion but a compulsion to act.”

The team quickly learned that by adapting the skills they had learned in the military for disaster response, they found a renewed sense of purpose. Now, more than 80 disasters later, Team Rubicon has 22,000 members and has greatly influenced the way emergency officials view the role of nonprofits.

For example, following Superstorm Sandy, Team Rubicon demonstrated its ability to coordinate and lead 10,000 spontaneous volunteers in the Rockaways and Jersey shore—saving residents and communities $3.8 million in cleanup costs.

Since then, several communities have officially requested Team Rubicon’s services, including Faulkner County, Ark., after a deadly EF-4 tornado leveled homes in Mayflower and Vilonia, last spring.

Also—for the first time ever—a municipality signed over emergency management of a response to a nonprofit when Pateros, Wash., enlisted the aid of Team Rubicon’s Incident Management Assistance Team during the Carlton Complex Fire, the worst wildfire in Washington State’s history, last July.

Beyond debris removal, volunteer management and in-kind donations, Team Rubicon was responsible for the safety of volunteers; tracking supplies and commodities; cost accountability; and public information.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that we (the City of Pateros) don’t think about Team Rubicon and the help they were to us,” said Kerri Wilson, city clerk. “They were our light at the end of a dark tunnel.”

And while Team Rubicon has assisted thousands, its members believe they are the ones being helped.

“It was so satisfying again to be around veterans, doing awesome work, helping struggling people, and serving again,” said Jonathan Chiang, an Army veteran reflecting on Pateros. “It was really those memories that make everything we do in Team Rubicon worth every drop of sweat.”

With one million service members expected to return to civilian life over the next few years, Wood and McNulty look to continue Team Rubicon’s rapid growth.

“Disaster may be our business, but veterans are our passion,” said Wood. “Through our shared experiences and desire to serve, we build a bridge between the civilian-military divide and make a better, more unified country for all our citizens.”

Team Rubicon volunteers are currently in Aberdeen, Wash., helping residents muck out from recent flooding and landslides. To learn more about Team Rubicon’s mission, or to become a supporter, visit http://www.teamrubiconusa.org.

About Team Rubicon: Team Rubicon (TR) unites the skills and experience of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. TR offers veterans a chance to continue their service by helping and empowering those afflicted by disasters, and also themselves. For more about Team Rubicon, visit http://www.teamrubiconusa.org.

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Sam Kille
Team Rubicon
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