Matching needs for service with those who need to serve

How Team Rubicon has pioneered a shift in both disaster response and veteran reintegration

Matching needs for service with those who need to serve

(Photo courtesy of Team Rubicon)

The world watched in horror when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. While the world mobilized to aid the impoverished nation, a small group of military veterans and first responders banded together to assist. They would become known as Team Rubicon. And they would pioneer a paradigm shift in not only disaster response, but veteran reintegration.

Four years after the quake, Team Rubicon has grown from eight to 14,000 members — most of whom are military veterans. Team Rubicon has 51 missions under its belt now, including Superstorm Sandy, the Oklahoma Tornadoes, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The rapid growth of the organization can be credited to the skills and experience of its members which seamlessly translate to disaster work, including search and rescue, field medicine, damage assessment, debris removal, and volunteer management.

In the beginning, cofounders and Marine veterans Jake Wood and fellow William McNulty looked to join with several established relief organizations. After being turned away, they took it upon themselves to raise funds, secure medical supplies, and make their way into Haiti via the Dominican Republic on their own. They theorized that a small, nimble team could be formed that would help bridge the gap until the larger organizations could establish operations.

Within five days of the quake, Team Rubicon treated their first patient—and thousands more would receive assistance. While doing so, the members learned that their work served another purpose—it filled a void of service lost after leaving the military. Team Rubicon provides veterans with three crucial tools for reintegration: a new purpose, community, and sense of self.

Because veterans only make up 13 percent of the population, and only 1 percent of Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are very much a minority—which can make the return to civilian life difficult. As combat operations in Afghanistan draw down, and the military looks to cut its ranks, more veterans will need assistance.

Team Rubicon has developed a comprehensive training pipeline to enable members to receive everything from the most basic response preparedness training up to becoming certified through the National Incident Management System. Plans are also underway to expand the organization’s ability to respond to more crises at home, while replicating Team Rubicon in other countries.