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How the Clay Hunt Fellows Program Changed My Life

Michael Davidson

Michael Davidson serves as the Training Cadre and Programs Coordinator for Team Rubicon. He's is a local boy from the Aloha State and retired from the Navy after 23 years in submarine service. Michael holds a B.S. in Business Management Information Systems from Hawai'i Pacific University and M.A. in International Commerce from Norwich University. He has an affinity for food served on a stick and when not at work you can find him on the beach pondering what lies over the horizon.

“Welcome to the team. Don’t [email protected] It Up!”

Message received at 11:42 a.m. on Monday, July 6, 2015.

This text was from Team Rubicon CEO, Jake Wood, and this was my first day on the job.

It gave me pause, and as I set the phone down, I knew I made the right decision by accepting the position of the National Training Cadre and Programs Coordinator (it’s a mouthful).

I was getting the shot of a lifetime – to manage the very same program that changed my life. The reality of this sank in as I reread the text – it was my first day having oversight of the Clay Hunt Fellows Program.

The Fellows Program started in 2011 after Clay Hunt lost his battle with Post-Traumatic Stress on March 31 of that year. Three members were serving in the memory of Clay in order to make TR the very best disaster response organization out there. This group helped formalize a fellowship program that would develop volunteers as competent professionals, capable of competing in the emergency management workforce, as well as strengthen our veteran-led disaster response organization.

Original member and Marine veteran Clay Hunt deployed on TR's first mission after the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
Original member and Marine veteran Clay Hunt deployed on TR’s first mission after the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

In December 2013, we announced the first official cohort of some genuine badasses. Seven volunteers from across the nation were selected. Our flagship leadership development and training program was now underway.

I remember attending the 2014 National Leadership Conference (I was the State Planning Coordinator for Hawaii at the time) and meeting the Fellows thinking this was a great group of folks taking our organization to the next level. I wanted to be a part of that, and another cohort would be forming up in July. When I got back to islands, I started working on my application for Cohort 2. I’d make it through the interviews even though I may or may not have told Mrs. Selke (Clay’s Mom) I wasn’t really a big fan of her home state of Texas.

June 2014 – Cohort 2 was announced and holy crap my name was on the list. What happened next was a game-changer for me. During my year as a Fellow, I was sucking the marrow out of the program’s bones. It was exciting and humbling. I got the tattoo. I was getting so much fulfillment and purpose out of the program.

The first official cohort of Clay Hunt Fellows gathered in Los Angeles upon graduating from the program.
The first two cohorts of Clay Hunt Fellows gathered in Los Angeles upon graduating from the program.

I began to reflect on other aspects of my life – particularly on my career. At the time, I was working as a Project Manager at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and didn’t offer the fulfillment I was getting as part of the Fellowship. It was your basic 9-5 job. One morning while I was the National Office, I took note of a poster hanging up in the hall – “Make Bold Decisions.” I was recently asked to interview with Wounded Warrior Project for the Alumni Manager position in Hawaii. I was on the fence about it. It was going to be pay cut but working with vets would be so fulfilling. I recalled a quote from Albert Einstein I referenced in my CHFP Application:

“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others… with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”

I walked away from government contracting and took the job with WWP. I made the bold decision and never looked back. The job and the team was great. Then on April 25 of this year, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, and I got a call asking if I could deploy as the Logistics Sections Chief with TR. I was on my way back from the WWP Office in Jacksonville, FL. During a layover at DFW I made the call to my boss in San Diego and explained the situation – he said put in for vacation and go.

Michael served as the Logistics Section Chief for Operation: Tenzing following the earthquake in Nepal.
Michael served as the Logistics Section Chief for Operation: Tenzing following the earthquake in Nepal.

The support of my supervisors at WWP was extraordinary – they knew how much I loved Team Rubicon. There was a new position opening up with TR and they encouraged me to apply. On the way out there door, I hit send on my application for the position of National Training Cadre and Programs Coordinator. Hard to believe a year ago, I thought about applying for the Clay Hunt Fellowship Program, and now I was being asked in for an interview for a full-time position with Team Rubicon.

Michael Davidson planned and led Cohort Four's orientation in Los Angeles in July 2015.
Michael planned and led Cohort Three’s orientation in Los Angeles in July 2015.

So, why this story? Because I believe in the power of the Clay Hunt Fellowship Program and am humbled to be at the helm of it. It most certainly changed my life, and it’s the reason I get out of bed every day.

This program takes volunteers who needed Team Rubicon and helps them become the volunteer leaders Team Rubicon needs.

The program has morphed a bit since its inception. We spend more time on self-discovery and awareness now. We all had a pretty clear understanding of our identify when we were still putting on the uniform, but after hanging them up, who are we now? Don’t worry – it’s not all cuddles and hugs, but we are dedicating the time to learn about ourselves before heading into Phase II of the Cohort year. The Fellows will spend the next six months working on a capstone project to better our organization.

Applications for Cohort #4 are now open, and I hope to see your name in the candidate pool.