The Team Rubicon UK website is at http://www.teamrubiconuk.org/. Their opening statement is
Invitation to Team Rubicon Headquarters at Chilmark September 24th 2016
In invitation to the Secretary of our Rotary Club was handed to Community Service for consideration. As a member of that committee I volunteered to go to the Open Day at Chilmark in Wiltshire, of a recently started new Charity.
It is called Team Rubicon UK and unites the skills and experience of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams in the UK and around the world.
Team Rubicon has been a registered charity for just over a year, and has already nearly 1,000 volunteers signed up. They have premises in an ex RAF munitions establishment in Chilmark, with a full time team of 8 trainers and administrators. Already they seemed to have acquired the use of good deal of equipment, like tents, generators, all manner of personal kit for short deployment. They appear also to have access to a good deal of specialist equipment including military software to plan and map incidents, including small drones and satellite telephone equipment. In effect they seem able to go into a situation and operate independently if required.
Now comes the buzz words that they use, some military and some that has been created by local authorities in times of emergency.
Team Rubicon’s first ability is to set up a VAC ( Voluntary Agency Cell ) From here they work with other agencies as part of the local authority CAR (Community Resistance Teams), who plan and co-ordinate possible emergency situations throughout the Uk.
Often when emergencies happen like the floods in Cumbria, and the Somerset levels a large number of volunteers offer their help. Team Rubicon specialise in creating a Spontaneous Voluntary Register to list and co-ordinate the skills of the volunteers. This is a very useful immediate function that could easily consume large amounts of time of the CAR.
They are a collaborative organisation sensitive to the work and effectiveness of other agencies, not wishing to be “heavy handed” in a “military” context, but offering the skills and man management skills they learnt in the forces. They are gradually training the volunteers to a standard that can be speedily deployed. All are insured, DBS checked (formerly CRB checks) and interviewed and monitored during their initial training weekends. It is not exclusive to either the military or the able bodied, as no individual would be deployed in a situation beyond their capabilities. However it is thought that military veterans are likely to be able to survive better in extreme situations. A register of volunteers is held at the HQ in Chilmark and when a request for help comes then suitable qualified people are sourced from the list. In the field they wear grey tee shirts with Team Rubicon logo and their own name, and are termed “grey shirts”
It is intended that there will be regional centres, and the first being in Scotland begins training shortly.
At the Open Day about 20 people were present while I was there, most were ex-military and had come to “sign-up” but I was the only representative from Rotary,
We had a briefing by a young lady trainer who had previously worked for Shelterbox and had been deployed overseas with them. She knew of Rotary and paid tribute to their work in overseas Aid. We then saw some of the “techy stuff” which I found fascinating, and immediately volunteered to be trained as a “drone operator”. They work with a specialist team of Mappers who use satellite images and drones to quickly “remap” the area they are working in to enable volunteers to be safely deployed in the most needed areas. This is a very important function, especially after earthquakes, and floods, and uses very high tech software to accurately “model” the disaster area.
We then had a briefing in a Field Operations Tent, by the senior trainer. This took about an hour and was very informative, and touched upon many issues. One of particular interest was the praise he gave to Rotary for their efforts in both the floods in Cumbria and the Somerset levels. They had played the role of creating the Spontaneous Volunteer Register at the time which has now been adopted as part of the official Community Resistance Plan in those areas. I have to say I felt very proud of Rotary after hearing this public statement to the assembled audience.
I asked various questions including where had the name Rubicon come from? I was told that Rubicon was established in the USA after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti 2010. Two marines, Jake Wood and William McNulty knew they could help and formed a small team of first responders and headed to the Dominican Republic. They crossed the river border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti…..They crossed their Rubicon ( Oxford dictionary ..To do something that you cannot later change and will strongly influence future events.) Although I didn’t realise it at the time I thought what a prophetic and appropriate name. In the USA there are over 40,000 volunteers, in several centres across the country.
The success of Team Rubicon centres on the feeling that trained military veterans miss the comradery of their fellows, and get a real sense of satisfaction when deployed to a crisis area. That seemed very obvious to me on the Open Day, and also helps that cross over from military life and civilian life.
It was said that if organisations like Rotary had a sufficiently large project that involved a lot of manpower, they would be interested to use it as a team building exercise. Food for thought!
In a time of budget cuts and reduced staff in local authority areas, and the unpredictable and often severe weather conditions we now experience, I feel there is a need for a rapid, trained volunteer organisation, and should be encouraged.
They are a Charitable Company, and have some very influential directors, primarily General Sir Nick Ralph Parker, who was one of the most senior officers of the British Army, Commander Land Forces. They appear to have some high net worth Sponsors, and contacts for military non-combat equipment. Personally any donations, although useful would not go very far, but influence and contacts for company sponsors might be useful.
My recommendation is that we keep in touch and follow their progress. Soon they will have registered their first year accounts, which will be useful. If we consider it a worthwhile organisation we could help develop awareness in the community in a similar way that we promote Shelter Box. I remember seeing the first presentation of Shelter Box in 2002 and look how successful that has become, this feels the same and something where Rotary can play a part, either in our community or on a more influential national platform.
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