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Don’t Underestimate the Strength of the Grey

There is an endless list of qualities that make Team Rubicon unique. Some things, like the weekly keg delivery to the office, are more obviously unusual, though there were many parts of TR that, as cliché as it may sound, I could not fully appreciate until I had left to go home for the summer.

One of the most unique qualities of the organization is the sheer velocity that both the volunteers and employees operate. It is no secret that we are a mission-driven organization, but it seemed to be that no matter where they were or what time of day, when a problem arose there was always someone ready to drop everything and work until it was resolved.

Emma Berry on the megaphone whipping fellow greyshirts into shape.

This kind of dedication does not just come from having a good work ethic or being a good friend to a coworker. It develops only when the cause you are fighting for becomes so engrained in your person that helping does not feel like an obligation, it’s something you genuinely want to do. This dedication is evident from the behind the scenes teams in LA and the NOC to each greyshirt on the ground, and when that many people harbor that much passion, it creates an unstoppable force.

The strength of the grey is something that is easy to mistake as normal, especially in my case as this was my first experience working in an office. Needless to say, my time as an intern on the membership team has forever ruined me, setting unmatchable expectations for how fervent and, quite frankly, badass my coworkers can be.

Over the past five or so years I had developed this idea, stemming from watching my peers and cheesy movies (as most things do), of what a college internship experience would be like. Team Rubicon decimated each and every one of those preconceived notions of what an intern does with each project I took on.

Disasters don’t work on your schedule and it takes a village to kick their ass.

This means that there’s no time to be spent making copies or organizing cabinets, every minute is spent helping people on their worst day and making the greyshirt experience both effective and meaningful. It may sound like a lot of hard work, and it is, but what would have been far more difficult is sitting on the sidelines brewing coffee when Mother Nature is out doing her worst.

My experiences with TR have left me with more confidence, valuable experience, and skills than your average college intern. When you step into the arena there is no time to be timid, even if you’re worried you might fail. In fact, that is a lesson I learned from hearing stories from our greyshirts. Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes the wall is harder to break down than you thought or a fallen tree has severely damaged a main road, but there is always a way around it.

Operating within an organization that is changing the way we see immediate disaster response and revolutionizing veteran reintegration is humbling to say the least. I was honored to add my drop in the bucket improving the greyshirts’ experience because without them, TR would just be an office. I am endlessly proud to wear my grey shirt. You can expect to find me out in the field some day, but before I go, I will leave you with my best-kept secret: I still have no idea how to use the coffee machine.

If you share Emma’s enthusiasm, sign up to volunteer or learn what internships are currently open with Team Rubicon. 

Hailing from New England, Emma is currently a student at the University of Southern California studying psychology and marketing. She served as an intern with Team Rubicon's field operations team in the spring of 2017.