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Cyclone Pam Relief Operations

David Burke

David Burke, the Director of Field Operations, graduated from the University of Iowa where he majored in business, bicycle maintenance, and beer snobbery. He served just under 5 years in the Marine Corps as a logistics officer and he deployed to Iraq with RCT-8 and to Afghanistan with the 2d Marine Division. David finished active service as a Captain in Quantico, VA, supporting the M1A1 Tank and M88 Recovery Vehicle. After a short stint in consulting, David and his wife, Amanda, traveled the US logging 1000’s of miles on the road and 100’s with a backpack.

There’s a significant amount of coordination poured into responding to a disaster abroad, and it’s always in our best interest to remain nimble and provide the most support possible without becoming part of the disaster when organizations and individuals rush to aid communities affected by severe events. Here’s a breakdown of our efforts in the wake of Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific:

March 13: Cyclone Pam made direct impact with the island nation of Vanuatu. Media coverage pointed toward large-scale devastation, but initial damage reports were slim and pointed toward the islands weathering the storm much better than expected. The event could have been much worse, and we’re relieved Cyclone Pam’s impacts were limited due to substantial preparation and use of evacuation centers in Vanuatu. 

March 15: Team Rubicon mobilized four highly-trained, experienced members to conduct assessments and to be tasked by the coordinating bodies leading the relief efforts. These four assembled in Los Angeles, put together personal and team equipment to support the appropriate capability, and waited for their flight. 

Hours before the flight, we discussed the last 48 hours of reporting and decided to mobilize the team to a forward staging area to speed ability to support if needed. 

The recon team assembled in Los Angeles before departing to Brisbane in the wake of Cyclone Pam.
The recon team assembled in Los Angeles before departing to Brisbane in the wake of Cyclone Pam.

March 16: The team departed for Brisbane, Australia, at 1250 AM.

March 17: While the recon team was still in transit, we began concurrent planning to ensure we would have a positive impact on Cyclone Pam relief efforts. A partner organization had a project on Tarawa island that was negatively impacted by Cyclone Pam, although less directly than Vanuatu.

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Team members load up gear in Brisbane, Australia.

March 13-18: We worked to integrate our capabilities and offer support through the coordinating agencies, understandably overwhelmed by the needs of the relief effort and dozens of non-governmental organizations descending on Port Vila, we held our team in Brisbane awaiting appropriate coordination.

March 19: We redirected our team to support the project in Tarawa dubbing it Operation: Front Door. The focus of the operation is the Betio Hospital, a 23-bed facility serving 20,000 people, which before Cyclone Pam, housed a maternity ward capable of supporting 16-20 deliveries per month. 

This has become our primary objective and our four-man team will support the assessments and planning for what will become a longer, multi-organization project. Based on initial assessments, we will determine how we can best support the other participating organizations.

The team met up with members of TR Australia, which is currently ramping up in hopes to utilize skills of the country's military veterans for disaster relief.
The team met up with future members of TR Australia following the Operation Slipper Welcome parade, which honors Australian military veterans who served in Afghanistan.