Every time the United States military deploys to provide emergency assistance in the wake of natural disasters, it stretches the already overburdened American forces even further. Yet, each year nearly 150,000 individuals separate from the military, many of whom retain their desire to provide service to people in need anywhere around the world.
These veterans represent a tremendous untapped resource for non-government relief organizations which, fully staffed and properly deployed, can absorb the burden being borne by the armed forces. The disaster relief group called Team Rubicon continues to demonstrate the strength and versatility of these former members of the military.
Team Rubicon was formed in the immediate aftermath of the massive earthquake in Haiti. It joined the resources and experience of trained veterans with the skills and knowledge of medical first-responders. Together, the members of Team Rubicon went into the most underserved areas of Port-au-Prince to save lives and to bring stability amidst the chaos.
After Haiti, Team Rubicon deployed to southern Chile when it was struck by devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. Later, Team Rubicon sent its veterans and first-responders to the Thai-Burma border where they set up a school of basic medicine to train displaced persons how to care for their fellow camp residents. But the latest deployment had the potential to be the most wrenching for Team Rubicon's combat veterans: they went to Pakistan.
While the international community poured money and aid into the island of Haiti, it seems the world has forgotten Pakistan. The flooding there has left millions without food, shelter or potable water. Disease has run rampant. And yet international aid has been sparing at best. Though trained as first-responders, Team Rubicon decided to deploy to Pakistan well after the initial floods because the dire situation never abated -- the people of Pakistan were in need of a first medical response weeks after the floodwaters destroyed their lives.
At a time when the American military is overextended around the globe, Team Rubicon has shown that by utilizing the experience of veterans, the same skill-sets can be brought to disaster relief operations without burdening the armed forces. These are the skills learned in the military: organization, coordination, risk analysis, risk mitigation, and mission focus. Team Rubicon's veterans establish the framework within which the team's medical first-responders can concentrate their efforts on bringing life-saving treatment and care to those most in need.
At a time when many in the international community criticize the United States for using its armed forces to project American power around the world, the veterans and medical personnel of Team Rubicon have become the face of American "soft power." Team Rubicon's armed service veterans deploy rapidly to any country were they can assist people in rebuilding their lives after a natural disaster. This is not combat-readiness; this is "soft power," aid-readiness, a projection of America's willingness to help any people in need anywhere.
Every year, thousands of men and women complete their commitment to the American armed services and return to civilian life. Yet, they retain the skills and experience they acquired in the military. Team Rubicon has demonstrated that these veterans represent an enormous untapped resource for all the various aid organizations. Veterans have unique capabilities that they can bring to disaster relief operations. What is more, veterans are eager to assist in international aid efforts because their service alleviates the strain increasingly placed on combat units deployed on humanitarian missions. By engaging veterans in relief work, non-government organizations can perform an invaluable service not only for victims of natural disaster, but also for the overtaxed American armed services. And all of these efforts help to improve the international perception of the United States at a time when the country is often seen as being merely an exporter of conflict.
In Haiti and Chile, Team Rubicon presented a new model for disaster response, pairing veterans with medical first-responders in highly mobile teams deployed to find and serve those most overlooked and in greatest need. In Pakistan, Team Rubicon has demonstrated that its dedicated personnel will undertake missions in any location. In so doing, Team Rubicon offers a model whereby former military personnel can continue to serve in such a manner as to alleviate the burden on their active duty counterparts. During these deployments the raw determination of American veterans remains unchanged in their fight against suffering and disease. On Team Rubicon's continuing missions, these former members of the armed services may not have beaten their swords into ploughshares, but they have certainly made their attacks into rescues.
Jake Wood, President
William McNulty, Vice President
Team Rubicon bridges the critical time gap between large natural disasters and conventional aid response.
We provide vanguard medical care by fielding small, self-sustaining, mobile teams of specially skilled first-responders.
To deploy rapidly, we rely heavily on a horizontal command structure, social networking technology, and the employment of local nationals.
Follow William McNulty on Twitter: www.twitter.com/teamrubicon