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Covering Their Backs in the Field

KC

KC Baney is an Army veteran currently residing in New Jersey. He serves as the Region 2 Field Operations Manager with more than 20 years in the fire service and working in local emergency management.

So there I was, sitting at my home in New Jersey furiously working to wrap up my last college semester before graduation (long time coming). I was following the development of the flooding in the Wimberley, TX area with interest. I was not at all surprised to learn TR was kicking off a national response operation. Over the preceding month or two I had been crazy busy – chainsaw training, teaching an ICS class in Boston, finishing up my degree, etc. – so I was leaning to the side of not seeking a deployment this time around. Well, that thought process lasted only a day or so until I started feeling that “call” we are all familiar with. Then, during our Ops Meeting, I was asked if I’d be interested in deploying as part of an IMT candidate group. How could I say no?

A few days later, I landed in Austin and found myself, once again, standing on a Team Rubicon FOB. I checked in, and Incident Commander Bob Obernier informed me I would be rotating through several of the Command and General Staff positions during my stay. I was very excited; however, if I am being completely honest, I was a bit nervous as well. Now I have been involved in the command structure of several large-scale incidents during my time in the fire service, including the response activities during Hurricane Sandy, but this was the first time I would be working in such a position for TR. Obviously, I wanted nothing more than to succeed during this new trial.

Army veteran KC Baney (left) gets some morning Joe alongside Jim Bordell on the FOB.
Army veteran KC Baney (left) gets some morning Joe alongside Jim Bordell on the FOB.

I’ve been told I have a unique leadership style. During this deployment, I had the invaluable experience of observing the styles of several other accomplished leaders in their own right. Ever since I accepted the Region II Field Operations Manager role, I was trying diligently to adapt my unique leadership style into something suitable to this unique organization. This opportunity became the perfect proving ground.

Initially scheduled to stay for only one week, this trip turned into two of the most rewarding weeks I have ever experienced. I was afforded the opportunity to serve as the Planning Section Chief, Operations Section Chief, and even Incident Commander. I absorbed more during this time than I can adequately express here. I saw that newly found “fire in the belly” experienced by first-time deployment volunteers ignite into a raging inferno. I witnessed proven TR leaders set the standard while fostering an environment where “getting shit done” was the only possible outcome. And throughout all of this, I learned a lesson I had not been expecting – standing in front of a room full of amazing people on my last night, I expressed how it was my intense belief that each set of eyes staring at me were individually responsible for lifting up the leadership to ensure success – not the other way round.

A strike team mucks and guts out a home affected by the flooding in Hays County, TX.
A strike team mucks and guts out a home affected by the flooding in Hays County, TX.

It was obvious to me that, as leaders we simply set the field for the players, cover their backs, make sure they have enough work, and complete all the administrative crap that keeps the wheels on the bus.

They are the ones that make the leaders prosper, and I could not be more honored and grateful for the opportunity to serve them as they served the community.

There is a school of thought that places the ultimate success of an organization on the backs of its leader(s). I beg to differ. It is the new volunteer out on his or her first deployment that will transform this organization we love into a household name and an enduring part of the fabric of this nation. We, as leaders, need only set the field, cover their 6, and provide some mentoring along the way (and of course complete all that administrative crap).

Teamwork done right in Wimberley.
Teamwork done right in Wimberley.

I find myself filled with an immense pride that of a job well done – the pride of helping another community of perfect strangers and being a part of this amazing family of Team Rubicon volunteers. I simply cannot express the degree of gratitude I feel for the opportunities this organization has provided me, and I look forward to all that is ahead as we grow.