>>GEORGE DRAKE: Our honorees today are Jacob Wood, a 29 year old and William McNulty, a 35 year old so they easily fit within the parameters of this award which is capped at age 40. If you see Jacob stand up it won't surprise you to learn that he was a linebacker at the University of Wisconsin. He got away from us in that regard. Both are Marine veterans and since 2012, 2010, that's not very long they have worked in 35 different disasters, both domestically and internationally.
They have deployed over 800 veterans in this service, they said 7500 in their database and they told us again on Friday how much social media and rapid communication today is key to their work and their organization of their veterans. They're hoping today to build a cadre of about 10,000 veterans. So what they're doing is serving the world in the world in their most dire need and also in the process giving great meaning to the lives of veterans.
So it is with a sense of honor and humility that I asked President Kington to come forward and award the Grinnell Prize to Jacob Wood and William McNulty.
>>GEORGE DRAKE: We'll now allow you to hear from them.
>>JACOB WOOD: Alright. We're going to actually start our presentation with a short video that really will
>>VIDEO: On January 12th 2010,
>>WOOD: Now we're going to start with a video that really demonstrates our organization, what we do, and more or less where we came from and the humble beginnings that launched our organization and then we'll start the talk.
>>NARRATOR IN VIDEO: On January 12, 2010 a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was also the day Team Rubicon was born and called into action. As a fleet footed group of veterans and medical first responders, we triaged thousands of Haitians, took over management of the general hospital and listed the help of a dozen enlisted veterans and medical volunteers and coordinated thousands of pounds of medical supplies from the Untied States. All before the major aid organizations were fully operational on the ground.
We knew at the time that we had set in motion a new paradigm in disaster relief and unexpectedly we found a new method of veteran reintegration as well. When we took off the uniforms, we did not shed our desire to serve. We also did not forget the skills we developed during our military service. Volunteering with Team Rubicon gave us a new purpose and filled a void we had in our civilian lives.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: I think a lot of people too after we left the military a feeling that we wanted to do something that is I guess constructive rather than destructive.
>>MAN IN VIDEO: When you get out, you kind of have that feeling of I guess resets your self worth and what are you really doing that's important in the world.
>>MAN IN VIDEO: We're out here, helping people and at the same time you know it's giving back to us. It's something that obviously a lot of our veterans need.
>>MAN IN VIDEO: I have in the short time that I've been here that I still have something to give, so...there's still something there, and I didn't know that.
>>NARRATOR: This purpose, community and an improved sense of self have become the core values of Team Rubicon and they have guided us on launch of our domestic operations in 2011, beginning with the damaging tornado in Tuscaloosa and followed by the devastation in Joplin, we began to enlist of the services of military veterans and aid immediate disaster relief at home. And with new disasters like Hurricane Sandy, we've taken on new responsibility in leading civilian volunteers in the field and coordinating response with local and federal agencies.
>>MAN IN VIDEO: What they did in a week, would have taken me 8 to 9 months to do, tens of thousands of dollars. It was just incredible.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: Anyone who wanted to volunteer, they just grabbed them off the street, gave them a lesson in what they needed to do and those guys just came and just did it. It was outstanding.
>>MAN IN VIDEO: And I had forgotten that it was veterans day until I realized that veterans who had a choice or marching in a parade choose to come to Rockaway instead.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: It just gave me a whole new perspective on what those guys are doing and how they operate so kind, so empathetic and just so mobilized.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: They've been nothing but generous supportive and I guess I say a godsend. We couldn't have made it through without them.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: Thank you so much for helping us at a time when we didn't know who would help us, they were there.
>>NARRATOR: Moving forward, Team Rubicon plans to expand regional offices for domestic response efforts, broaden veteran outreach and support programs and implement new technologies and communication tools like those utilized in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. These technologies have become instrumental in tracking the destruction, the needs of home owners and the efficiencies of our response team.
There will always be veterans in this country and there will always be natural disasters and that's why Team Rubicon will always be there. Whenever, wherever.
>>JACOB WOOD: So, I would like kind of take everybody back to January 2010. And you all saw the same images across the screen in the middle of January when we saw the devastating images of what had transpired in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas. I think many of us thought the same thing: what can I do to help? I mean certainly this was possibly the most devastating natural disaster that had happened in recent history and anybody with sense of human compassion thought, what could I do, what could I do to help?
And the majority of the American population, of the population around the world they texted ten dollars at a time, they gave incredible amounts of money to organizations the world over. Literally billions of dollars were pouring in from both nations and individuals, but there were some people including a lot of NGOs and the Untied States military that decided they needed to get boots on the ground. And as I sat there and looked at these images, I thought to myself, this all looks really familiar to me.
In early 2010, I was only three years removed from the Marine Corps and this isn't me, this is William, but I spent 4 years in the United States Marine Corps and I deployed to place all around the globe to included a tour in 2007 to Iraq's Anbar province and second tour as a scout sniper in 2008 to the Helmand Valley of Afghanistan.
So when I saw the images coming across the screen out of Port-au-Prince, I thought, "this is no worse than Fallujah, this is no worse than Baghdad, this is no worse than Kabul, Afghanistan. And if we're seeing all of these supplies, all of these materials pile up at the Port-au-Prince airport, its not getting to the individual citizens of Haiti, there's a problem with that, there's a problem with making excuses like unstable populations to not get these supplies where it was necessary, where it was needed most.
So William and I thought to ourselves, we need to get down there, we need to use the skills that we learned in the military. Skills like leadership, skills like risk assessment and emergency medicine and we can go out and we can have a real impact. So we called a number of organizations and they all said the same thing: we're not taking spontaneous volunteers. At the time I didn't understand why, but the why didn't really matter to me. It was the fact that they weren't allowing us to go and so we said we're going to go anyway. We believe in ourselves enough, we believe that we can have an impact, so we're going to do this.
So we organized a team of 8 people and we found ourselves in Port-au-Prince three days after the earthquake. We were going all across the city, working out of a Jesuit Novitiate camp and we were conducting medical triage clinics around the city in parts of the city, in portions of the city that no other aid organizations would go. We would go to the places deemed too dangerous, too inaccessible and we would treat those people on scene.
And we had a number of ah-ha moments while we were running through Port-au-Prince, but there's one that always sticks out in my memory. We were driving through the city in a caravan of trucks that were renting from locals. We came across this sign, if you can read the sign, it says, "help more than 6,000 people, the forgotten valley." And we saw this and we pulled our cars to the side of the road and we got out and we looked down into the valley and sure enough we saw that the steep valley walls had cascaded down in an avalanche of cinder blocks and corrugated tin roofing and bodies and settled down at the very bottom of the valley.
Now I'm certain, I'm sure that a lot of people passed by this sign and looked at that same imagery and said it's impossible to get down there. We looked down there and said we have to get down there. So we put our packs on our backs, we got out our ropes and we found a way into the bottom of this valley and we treated the people at the bottom. Now, it wasn't quite 6,000, they habit of overestimating, it was maybe more like 150, but regardless these people had not seen any medical care and were talking 9 days after the earthquake.
And it was at this moment we kind of thought to ourselves, "veterans are really good at this. This is what we can do. We can have an impact here. We spent at this time 10 years in combat zones perfecting small unit leadership, emergency medicine, team work, how to follow orders, how to asses risk, how to mitigate risk. And that's all that this is.
And so whereas we went down to Port-au-Prince with no expectation of starting an NGO or starting a non-profit organization, we left Haiti with the realization that if we started one could actually make a tremendous difference in the world. And what we decided to do, is that we realized we had two problems: the first problem was inadequate disaster response. Haiti proved that it was really easy to get supplies and equipment to Haiti, it was really hard to get it to Haitians. It was slow, it was ineffective, it was outdated. It doesn't use the best technology and we saw it wasn't using the best human resources.
And the second problem we came across was inadequate veteran reintegration. And that might be something you've only read of on the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post, but there's a huge problem that we're experiencing in this nation as 2.5 to 3 million veterans are coming from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after repeated deployments to combat zones that are fragmented and 360 degrees at all time where driving down the road no longer feels normal because you're an explosion away from losing your legs.
We have a serious problem bringing those troops back and reintegrating them into civilian life. And that's manifesting itself in a number of different ways. Veterans have higher unemployment rates, veterans are suffering from things like post-traumatic stress, perhaps the most damning statistic that we have is that 22 military veterans a day are committing suicide.
So we said, ok we have this problem, but perhaps we don't have two problems, we have two solutions. Disasters often provide opportunities for service for our military veterans and veterans offers skills and services and experiences that can have a tremendous impact on disaster response. So what we did is we continued to explore this model and shortly thereafter we went to the tsunami in Chile, we went to Burma to train medics on the Thai-Burma border, we went to Pakistan after the devastating floods in 2010, in South Sudan in early 2011. And we were conducting and perfecting this model of using military veterans to improve disaster response, but our organization had a major road block, a major tragedy in early 2011.
This is Clay Hunt. Clay was one of the founding members of Team Rubicon, he was with us in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he went with us to Chile after the tsunami there. Clay was also one of my best friends. You see, Clay and I served in the Marine Corps together, we served in the same platoon together when were deployed to Iraq where Clay was wounded by gunfire, and we went to sniper school together where he was my partner and we deployed to the same sniper section when we went to Afghanistan.
Clay was a national advocate for veteran reintegration. He participated in Team Rubicon, the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America, he lobbied Congress, he worked for the ride to recovery and he worked for the mission continues and all of these organizations that worked to bring veterans home. He did a service announcement about how to go and find mental health when you needed it.
Clay committed suicide in March, 2011. And, that was a tragedy for our organization, it was a personal tragedy for me, and many others. And when the dust settled from Clay's suicide, we realized we were at an inflection point in our organization. Where as originally, we saw ourselves as a disaster response organization that was using veteran service, we realized that disasters is just what we were doing, our real passion was veterans and after Clay's suicide, we saw ourselves now as a veteran's service organization that was using disasters as an opportunity to continue service. That might seem like a very subtle shift, but it had a profound impact on our organization.
So moving on after Clay's memorial service, we launched our domestic program, and you saw that in the video. We were provided with an opportunity almost within a month of his funeral service when the tornados hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We deployed a team of military veterans to Tuscaloosa and the impact was profound. It allowed us to get more veterans involved more often and these men and women were coming together and they were, you could see the bonds that were forming, you could see this idealism of common service and the opportunity at finding a new mission and finding a new community and feeling like yourself again is exactly what these men and women needed.
We really had boiled it down to three things: the first thing is purpose. Imagine you're an 18 year old boy who graduated from high school, you join the army. The army gives you a rifle, they train you up and they send you to Iraq. And every day you leave the wire, you have a purpose. You fight for your country, you're leading a team of 13 men on a squad, on a patrol, and you're responsible for them, you come home, you get out of the army, you go back to Omaha, Nebraska wherever you're from originally. Maybe you get job, maybe you go to school, maybe you get a family, but there's a little hole inside there that can't be filled by anything in civilian life. You lack that service. We can provide that community.
Imagine that same 18 year old boy graduates from high school, he joins the army, the army gives him a rifle, ships him off to Iraq and everyday for 12 months he has the same band of brothers around him and he looks them all in the eye before he leaves the wire and he knows that they're all responsible for each other and he knows that each one of them will die for him and he'll die for them. And that 18 year old boy comes back, he's now 21 gets back from the army, he goes back to Omaha, his high school friends have moved on, now what? Maybe he's got some co-workers, maybe there's some students at the college that he's going to, but its not the same. It doesn't really replace it. We might be able to do that; we might be able to provide that community through continued service for that veteran.
The last one is self-worth. You got that same 18 year old boy, graduates high school, army gives him a rifle, sends him off to Iraq. He wears a uniform with pride, he comes home, they pin a medal on his chest, everyone slaps him on the back and says thank you for your service, you're a hero. He takes that uniform off, now he's just Joe. Maybe he's Joe the mechanic, maybe he's Joe the barber, maybe he's Joe the college professor, but now he's just Joe. Where does he find that sense of self again? Well I think that we can do that. I think that we can give that person a uniform again. I think we can give them an opportunity to serve, an opportunity to be a part of the fabric of the community again, to be a part of a team, to have a new mission. For us, that mission is disaster response.
>>WILLIAM McNULTY: So, the first inflection point of the organization as Jake talked about was Clay's suicide. That caused us to shift the focus from the disaster victims to the veteran to give him those three things: purpose, community and self-worth. The second inflection point of the group was Hurricane Sandy, the reason why we couldn't be here in November to accept the prize.
Hurricane Sandy was an inflection point because it actually changed our model. So while in the past we would deploy these very small, 8 to 10 man teams in order to bridge that gap in the interim period between a natural disaster and conventional large scale aid response. Well, when Hurricane Sandy happened and we established our selves at this forward operating base in the Rockaway, during the week, hundreds and during the weekend thousands of civilians spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers, we call them SUVs, showed up and asked to be involved in our mission.
And so we took a look at our model of what was the 8 to 10 man team of military veterans and we said, you know what, that's 8 to 10 potential leaders. And so we broke down those teams and we took one to two military veterans and we attached 20 to 40 civilians, we gave them personal protection equipment, safety brief, the work orders and those teams lead by veterans and those civilians or SUVs became force multipliers, so while we deployed over 300, we managed over 10,000 civilians who showed up at the Rockaway offering to help. The missions, the type of work that we conducted was actually not dissimilar to what we had done in the past: initially search and rescue, route clearing, debris removal, home mucking, these are things we had all done before, we just were just able to do it a whole lot more by adding civilians to our operations.
We conducted over 900 work orders, saving the community over $4 million. The level of support we received for Hurricane Sandy was unprecedented for our missions. Goldman Sachs gave us a two million...quarter of a million dollars to finance our operation. Home Depot, Jet Blue provided over 150 free round trip flights, all of our equipment was provided for by our partnership with the Home Depot Foundation.
But perhaps most impressive was the incorporation of particular piece of technology that I had used when I left the intelligence community or when I was serving in the intelligence community and this is my background. As a civilian I served in the intelligence agency at the Undersecretary for Intelligence and with the Department of Treasury. One of the tools we used to discover latent connections between terrorists and IED explosions was called Palantir.
Now Palantir came to us before the response and they said, "hey we think we can help you, we think we can help you manage your workflow." So they deployed with us and we didn't know how this was going to work out because we hadn't worked with Palantir before Sandy so we were literally making this up on the fly. But we used it to manage our workflow, so what we did is we took all of the work orders that we were taking and this was pen and paper and Palantir digested that information and they displayed it on a map and we looked for clusters of activity on that map and we assigned work order based on those clusters of activity. It was truly revolutionizing our process and today President Clinton is trying to take this software program that's now being used for disaster response that was once used for catching terrorists.
Now, let's go back to Clay. When we showed up at Clay's funeral, there were three marines who were living near him that didn't know that he had recently moved to Houston and those three Marines had actually served with Clay. And so it got us to thinking, how do we solve this problem of veteran reintegration. Military units are piece-mailed together and they come, they work together in the military, but when they leave the service, they go back home, they lose that connection, they lose that camaraderie, they lose that core. Well, at Team Rubicon, we're trying to solve that through continued service. Continued service is our way of building community.
But when we showed up at Clay's funeral, we were just surprised that there were three Marines that he had served with that lived within ten miles of him, but Clay didn't know it. So the fact that he had a community. So we developed and launched a program called pause-rep and pause-rep is designed to maintain that community. So imagine if Clay had been using this program, this app that is now available, if he could have taken all of those Marines that he had served with and put them into what's called a squad on this app, he would have received a push notification when he came within a set distance of him. So this is our way of using technology to help solve the problem of veteran reintegration and how to maintain community in this post 9/11 world.
So, Jake and I are members of the American Legion. I served in Iraq as a civilian so I'm not actually not allowed to be a member of the VFW but Jake is and Jake is a member of the VFW as well. But the larger problem is that our generation is not embracing the American Legion and the VFW. So that's why we came up with this model based on continued service.
So, I want to give you guys a quick brief about why we chose Team Rubicon to close out this presentation as well as end on a very upbeat video about our work during Hurricane Sandy.
So, first the logo: the reason that we chose the logo is because if you think of the current model or the current symbol of the medic being the red cross, turned on its side because the current model of disaster relief needs improvement and broken open to represent the river Rubicon. Now Team Rubicon the name is important because the term Rubicon is a term used by journalists to mean you're past the point of no return, harks back to the small river in northeastern Italy called Rubicon that when Caesar crossed it, it was considered an act of war.
Well our point of no return was the Artibonite River separating the Dominican Republic and Haiti on our very first mission. And at that point when we crossed that river, we were delivering these doctors and supplies to Port-au-Prince, we weren't turning backing and returning to the Dominican Republic. That was our point of no return. And team because of the small units, the small teams that we worked with in the Marine Corps in special operations community, hence the name Team Rubicon. Now to finish the presentation, we're going to show a short presentation about our response to Sandy.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: I walked out just as the sun was coming out, just around 7 to mayhem.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: we lost just about everything in our basement and garage to about 6 feet of water, devastation all over the town and the bright light was Team Rubicon.
>>MAN IN VIDEO: We were standing there looking at everything and thinking what are we going to do? And they just came in like a swarm of locus and took over.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: My basement was flooded. Some men came in, they ripped out sheet rock, flooring, carried everything out to the curb.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: Team Rubicon was standing on the corner these guys in grey t-shirts and you know that these are the people that are going to help.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: From day one, they've been here every day, helping, shoveling, digging, offering support, a shoulder to cry on, supplies, food, anything that we needed.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: Volunteers came over and helped us take out all the trash, now trash, all of our belongings, our personal items.
>>WOMEN IN VIDEO: I said, "look I need some guidance here because I don't know what to do." And she totally got me focused, snapped me out of my daze.
>>MAN IN VIDEO: And what they did in a week, would have taken me 8 to 9 months to do, 10s of thousands of dollars. They're just absolutely incredible.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: Anybody walking down the street that wanted to volunteer, they just grabbed them off the street, gave them a lesson in what they needed to do and those guys just came and just did it. It was outstanding.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: The fact that so many Team Rubicon members are veterans just makes it that much more special.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: So, I'm feeling as though they're giving twice to the community. Not only to the country but also to the community.
>>MAN IN VIDEO: And I had forgotten that it was Veterans Day until I realized that veterans who had a choice of marching in a parade chose to come to Rockaway and chose to help us instead.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: It just gave me a whole new perspective on what those guys are doing and how they operate so organized so kind, so empathetic, and just so mobilized.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: they've been nothing but generous, supportive and as I say, a godsend. We couldn't have made it through without them.
>>MAN IN VIDEO: They gave us a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is getting brighter every single day.
>>WOMAN IN VIDEO: Thank you so much for helping us at a time when we didn't know who would help us, they were there. Thank you.