bal harbour blog

A Global Fight

Culture Watch
Team Rubicon CEO Jake Wood taking action after a tornado in Bridge Creek, Oklahoma.

By Christopher Mason

Jake Wood was out of the Marine Corps for only three months when Haiti suffered a catastrophic earthquake in January 2010. Instead of easing back into civilian life, he decided to volunteer. "I just saw a situation that reminded me of Iraq and Afghanistan—chaos, danger, limited resources and information,” he says. "I'd thrived in that environment over the previous four years and felt that I could take everything I'd learned and get down there to help people.” Wood and a friend, William McNulty, gathered a group of eight like-minded veterans willing to lend their expertise for a common humanitarian cause. They chose to ignore warnings from the government and major aid organizations not to venture forth—and arrived in Haiti on January 17, 2010, carrying sorely needed gear and medical supplies to the devastated population of Port-au-Prince.

After Haiti, Wood and McNulty founded Team Rubicon, a charity dedicated to organizing a force of volunteer veterans to provide relief to those impacted by natural disasters around the world. In the process, they strive to reduce human suffering and help the afflicted to regain dignity. 

The group does not receive government funds, but its mission has attracted major support from big banks like Goldman Sachs and Citibank, retail chains such as Home Depot and Walmart, private foundations, and influential philanthropists in New York City.

With global disasters, Rubicon’s efforts often dovetail with the Red Cross, which provides mass shelter and compassionate care. With a disaster like Superstorm Sandy, Wood explains, “The Red Cross will help to put a tent over their head. We’re the organization that takes care of their house.” Tasks can include mucking out a flooded basement, chainsawing, or demolishing a house ravaged by hurricane-force winds.

Under his leadership as CEO, Team Rubicon has responded to more than 120 disasters around the globe, including the 2011 Joplin tornado in Missouri, Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal.

During that time, the groups has expanded from eight to 35,000 volunteer veterans, all attending to disasters that require grit, determination and courage. Such heroic efforts, Wood observes, can restore a sense of purpose when veterans return to the banalities of everyday life after the focused efforts and strains of warfare.

Initially, Rubicon’s volunteers were all recent veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the group is evolving. Many Vietnam vets are now retiring from civilian jobs and wind up becoming Team Rubicon volunteers. “They’ll tell you their lives would be profoundly different if Team Rubicon had been there when they came home,” Wood says.


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