In October 2017 in another ‘good people post I wrote about Team Rubicon, a group of veterans started by Jake Wood, in 2010, initially in response to the devastating earthquake that had hit Haiti, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and at least that many more homeless. Wood convinced a former classmate and a few other former Marines to join him and starting off with a group of 8, they headed to Haiti with medical supplies and equipment. But, the story didn’t end there. After Haiti, Wood and his friend William McNulty did some brainstorming, realized that their group was pretty effective, and veterans had the skills and know-how to do such things. In the years since, the group expanded to over 150,000 volunteers, 70% of them veterans, and have been all over the world providing assistance to people in the wake of natural disasters and regional conflicts. In all, they have responded to more than 500 humanitarian crises in the past decade.
Then in July 2021, Team Rubicon crossed my radar once again when CNN reported on them for their response to the pandemic since 2020. When the pandemic first hit, Wood knew there would be a need for their services, and they were there, supporting food banks, delivering groceries, setting up Covid testing sites, vaccination sites and much more. And here we are, just over a year later, and Team Rubicon has volunteers helping people in three areas:
- In Puerto Rico AND Prince Edward Island, Canada, helping to clean up in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona that hit both locales in late September
- In Western Alaska where people are trying to recover from Typhoon Merbok that destroyed nearly all the food supply when it hit last month
- In Florida, coordinating relief and clean-up efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian that hit at the end of September
When I first wrote about Team Rubicon in 2017, they had 33,000 volunteers … today they have more than 150,000! Here are a few tidbits from Team Rubicon’s website regarding their most recent efforts.
One week after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, Team Rubicon is expanding its disaster response operations in the state. As of October 5, the veteran-led nonprofit’s route clearance teams had conducted 37 route clearance events, moved 6,680 cubic yards of debris, and removed 131 obstructions across the state.
One week out, roadways remain covered in debris and home owners and residents are faced with extensive damage and flooding, and the overwhelming question of where to turn as they try to recover. To assist the survivors of Hurricane Ian, Team Rubicon has been expanding operations in multiple counties in Florida.
Currently, 67 Greyshirts are deployed in Charlotte County where they are clearing debris, mucking out flooded homes, performing chainsaw operations, and tarping roofs. Another 25 Greyshirts are currently deployed to Lee County and eight are on the ground in Polk County. The veteran-led disaster response organization hopes to deploy more than 300 volunteers to Florida to assist with Hurricane Ian disaster relief over the next month.
On September 16, remnants of Typhoon Merbok produced widespread damage to communities in Western Alaska, including Golovin. The storm flooded homes and businesses; damaged infrastructure—including the power grid and water supply system—and washed away roads and bridges. According to U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office, the 2022 typhoon damaged approximately 1,000 miles of coastline.
Set along the Bering some 200 miles below the arctic circle and 500 miles from Anchorage, as the crow flies, Golovin was one of the areas most heavily damaged by Typhoon Merbok. Much of the village was under 6 feet of water, and all of it was without power for days. To assist in the village’s recovery, Team Rubicon is deploying a team of volunteers, or Greyshirts, to Golovin to provide muckout and expedient home repair services to the remote coastal village before winter freeze up.
Over the course of the operation, which is expected to last until October 7, Greyshirts will muckout damaged homes and teach local volunteers how to perform muckouts. Due to the remoteness of the village and lack of local resources, all equipment, supplies, and food needed for the operation will be flown in from Anchorage with the Greyshirts who will be camping and working in primitive conditions for the duration of the operation. To support the community going forward, all excess or unused equipment and supplies will be left in Golovin at the end of the operation.
Less than 20% of the island had electricity and 55% percent of Puerto Ricans were without water. “This is even bigger than it looks,” says Team Rubicon CEO Art delaCruz. “Any disaster that knocks out an entire power grid is a very big deal.”
The first dozen Greyshirts from the Continental U.S. are engaged in recon and establishing operating locations, then will begin assisting with recovery efforts. The organization expects to begin deploying numerous other Greyshirts soon.
The deployment to Puerto Rico is not the veteran-led humanitarian aid organization’s first trip to the island: It responded to Hurricane Maria in 2017. Greyshirts then returned in 2018 to help with rebuild and recovery efforts, putting new roofs on 512 homes.
This is the third time I’ve written about Team Rubicon, but these guys deserve all the kudos we can give them, for these are people who drop everything to go thousands of miles to help others when the need arises. They certainly get two thumbs up from me, and I suspect this won’t be the last time, either!