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A Note From Our Chief Operating Officer

Ken Harbaugh

Ken is a former Navy pilot and holds a JD from Yale Law School. He served as an Electronic Warfare Mission Commander and taught naval history at The Citadel. Following his Naval service, Ken co-founded The Mission Continues, a non-profit that empowers veterans to serve in their communities. He worked for two years with McKinsey and Co., and served as Executive Director of ServiceNation. Ken taught as a guest fellow at Yale, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Yale Journal of International Law, Canada’s National Post, Proceedings, and on NPR.

It’s been one hell of a year, and since last week marked my anniversary at Team Rubicon, I thought I’d share a few reflections on how far we’ve come.

When Will McNulty and Jake Wood first approached me about joining TR 18 months ago, there were seven full-time staff members and fewer than 1,000 volunteers. The notion of becoming a truly professionalized disaster relief organization was just that – a notion.

Today, we are 20,000 strong, with 28 employees supporting Regions that will soon have their own full-time administrators. Most importantly, we are a no-shit disaster relief organization that has fully adopted the Incident Command System allowing us to easily collaborate with partner organizations on the ground.

2014.08.06_HumbleTrooper_MORE_225_web
TR received its first delegation of authority from a government entity on Operation: Humble Trooper in Pateros, WA.

Our strategic focus on building a professional response capability is paying off. During Operation: Humble Trooper, TR received its first delegation of authority from a government entity. We were ready. The team downrange hit a home run, and the community of Pateros, WA will forever be grateful.

But that’s not all.

We owe our members much more than the occasional deployment, so we’ve invested heavily in training and other programs.

Our engagement tempo has increased even faster than our ops tempo, with more than 350 TR-sponsored events in 2014. We didn’t track events a year ago, but there’s no question we’ve come a long way. An increasing number of those events involve training or other preparation for field deployment.

On the mental health front, we doubled-down on our partnership with Give an Hour. And for the first time in our history, we are collecting real data on the impact these efforts are having on our members’ lives. This ground-breaking work, while supported by HQ, is being led by our members in the regions.

Many of this year's events  focused on mental health, such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.
Many of this year’s events focused on mental health, such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.

We have a lot left to build. We’re starting by reinforcing the foundations, investing in everything from training to technology to mental health.  We need to beef up our Incident Management Assistance Team and work on our international deployment plans.

We’re poised to keep growing. There’s no shortage of disasters, and we’ve only begun tapping into the giant reservoir of veterans and first responders who can help us respond. As impressive as our achievements have been to date, real greatness lies before us.

2015 is going to be a big year. Into the breach…

  • Don Kerley

    The focus on professionalism and service both to the disaster victims and the volunteers is what drew me to this organization. The growth potential here is astounding and I am glad to be a part.