By Josh Gagnier We are not special and we are not...
The Devil Went Down To Georgia
By RU Rob
Every time I deploy with Team Rubicon I am amazed. The level of professionalism, willingness to accomplish the mission and the concern that Team Rubicon volunteer’s exhibit is nothing less than outstanding. On February 2nd I was once again dumbfounded with amazement by a small southern town, Adairsville, Georgia and the members of Team Rubicon.
A tornado had ripped across the center of the small town and had obliterated everything in its path. As I surveyed the damage I thought that it would take weeks or even months to get the debris cleaned up. Then the following morning a miracle of small sorts came along.
We had been planning on 400-800 spontaneous volunteers showing up, but when I was brushing my teeth in the church bathroom at 5:45am and volunteers started shuffling in, I sensed it was going to be bigger than that.
Team Rubicon, at the time, had 15 members in place. Five of which were already committed to command and control tasks, leaving 10 to actually facilitate the proper employment of the volunteer force on the ground; acting as a supervisor, mentor, and friend to not only the volunteers but the disaster victims as well.
Soon, the entire auditorium of the Adairsville Church of God was filled with a line out the door. Volunteers consisted of families, friends, Church groups and your average red-blooded American. While some were frantically worried that there were more people than work to accomplish, Team Rubicon adjusted strategy and began deploying these volunteers to areas of lesser priority. All told there were over 1200 volunteers registered, processed, equipped and deployed within two hours.
I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people that day. The retired Sergeant Major who at age 67 was manning a chainsaw like a young Private in the Army; a family who had left their home at 5:00 am and driven over 150 miles to help; and the group of college students who had nothing better to do on a Saturday were all part of the team. The weather was not cooperative with temperatures in the mid 30’s and periods of sleet and snow, but that didn’t stop the droves of people as they donned their orange volunteer vest and set out into the community. These acts of kindness don’t hit you at the time, but as I look back I realize that it was astonishing.
The Team Rubicon Team Leaders were given general guidance as to the mission, but when we were busting at the seams with spontaneous volunteers to a degree not planned for, they shrugged their shoulders and without hesitation grabbed their groups, with sometimes more than 90 people, and headed out.
Later in the morning, after all of the teams had deployed, I headed out into the field to hand out water, check on progress and evaluate areas that still needed work. As I entered into the disaster area the only thing I could see were hundreds and hundreds of orange-vested people working at a frantic pace. I had to pull my truck off to the side of the road so I could fully process and understand just how many people and how much work was taking place. There was no one standing idle and the sounds of chain-saws could be heard from all directions. It was a sight that I had never before experienced; a feeling of community. It charged my soul even though I, along with the rest of the Team Rubicon leadership, had worked late into the night in preparation for the day’s event.
After doing an initial sweep and projecting that we would be at 40% completed with debris removal by the end of the day, I headed over to where Operation BBQ Relief was set up. Operation BBQ is another charity that feeds the masses who participate in large scale operations such as what we were doing. The smell of the food was incredible and the group who was volunteering at the church where it was set up were working as if there was no tomorrow. Hundreds upon hundreds of plates of food were made, and then delivered to the masses working in this quaint Georgia town.
Sometime around 4:00pm the masses started their exodus from the town as quickly and quietly as they entered. The constant buzz of chain-saws diminished and the low rumble of dump trucks and heavy equipment dissipated. Calm fell over the town that night, something that had been missing from the sleepy Georgia town since it had been so rudely disrupted by a tornado.
As Team Rubicon sat down to dinner of steak and potatoes from Operation BBQ there was a feeling of satisfaction among the members. The group was jovial yet exhausted as each member told a particular story that had embedded itself into their individual memories and will remain forever. Laughs and smiles were the priority of the evening, much more than the necessary sleep. Team Rubicon had once again taken the seemingly impossible and produced the unbelievable.
After conducting the final survey of the evening it was established that more than 60% of debris removal had taken place on day 1 of the recovery portion of the operation. To achieve so much in so little time is almost unfathomable…almost.
I tried to keep an even keel as I was in a disaster zone. There were times when I was overwhelmed with emotion and had to step away for a moment to collect myself. There were too many times to count where I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I witnessed kindness, felt sorrow, or beamed with pride over the team. As my past teammates will tell you, even after I leave a disaster area I am always checking on the team, seeing if there is anything that I can do from afar and this time was no different. On Sunday, as I pulled out of Adairsville, I smiled. Even though I would no longer be directly participating in the disaster response, I knew that there are thousands of Team Rubicon Volunteers, spread across this great land that are ready, willing and able to face adversity and respond with the same tenacity as the ones I had just met.
The circumstances in which we will meet may not be the greatest, but the outcome will be.