During Team Rubicon’s annual conference this spring, 9 volunteers—or Greyshirts—were acknowledged for their exemplary service over the past year. Here’s a look at the awards and the awardees.
Three Honored with Spirit of Service Award
Every year Team Rubicons celebrates military veteran Greyshirts who most exhibit the service above self mentality that characterized Clay Hunt with the Spirit of Service award.
This year, three Greyshirts—one from each branch—took home the Spirit of Service award: the North Branch’s Kevin Ryan, the South Branch’s Phil Ditto, and Hans Henrikson from the West Branch.
Kevin Ryan, North Branch
Kevin Ryan has never looked away from a challenge. That was evidenced by the work he did when Team Rubicon launched its Afghan resettlement operations Eagle Landing—which had Greyshirts managing donated goods at military bases housing Afghan refugees—and then Enduring Eagle, where Greyshirts set up homes for resettling Afghans.
As he assumed a new undefined role, Ryan created the resettlement playbook. Taking the lead for both Fort McCoy Eagle Landing and Milwaukee’s Enduring Eagle, he ensured that our Afghan guests were given the respect they deserved both on their arrival and during their transition into their new lives. As he did, he also created and mentored new leaders who have now moved on to hold leadership positions in a variety of states.
“I can confidently say without his perseverance and dedication to serve, Eagle Landing and Enduring Eagle would not have been as successful as they were in Wisconsin,” said another Greyshirt.
Now, whether he is getting dirty in the field or helping tell stories of service, Ryan continues to lead in a very humble way. While Clay Hunt said: “We simply refuse to watch our world suffer, when we have the skills and the means to alleviate some of that suffering, for as many people as we can reach,” Ryan embodies the principle, and in doing so keeps Clay’s spirit of service alive. There is truly no one better suited to represent this organization and the ideals that Clay Hunt had on service than Kevin Ryan.
Phil Ditto, South Branch
Whatever is needed, Phil Ditto is your guy. Always there to organize, lead or just answer any question, Ditto exudes a positive attitude even in the toughest of times, which sets the tone for the entire team. On only Phil’s second operation as IC, he delivered one of the most thorough and descriptive RECON/ADVON reports ever. A team player who always makes meetings serious with a hint of fun, Ditto’s outside-the-box thinking and willingness to collaborate with others to move an idea forward will continue to make Team Rubicon grow.
Ditto is also always working to drive the mission, whether that’s as Field Readiness during blue skies or in C&G during grey skies. Perhaps most meaningful, Ditto is always looking for the best way to serve impacted communities and shares that intel across the organization. But regardless of who he is working with or what he’s doing, Ditto does not play favorites: He is just as willing to work with new volunteers as seasoned veterans of the organizations. Most of all, he is always working with others to develop himself and all the other people around him.
Hans Henrikson, West Branch
Hans Henriksen has demonstrated exceptional dedication and professionalism in his role as Branch Planning Deputy (Field Service Support), and his efforts have had a significant impact on the organization. One of his notable achievements was the creation of a monthly field service workshop, which has proven to be a valuable resource for the operations team. Henriksen has been instrumental in assisting with branch planning quality assurance, and his expertise has helped the branch to identify and address potential issues before they become significant problems.
While Henriksen demonstrated his leadership skills and ability to handle high-pressure situations with ease when he served as Incident Commander for West Branch’s first response operation of 2023, he is also a dedicated volunteer who is always willing to lend his expertise and support to our team in any way asked. His contributions have been invaluable. Fundamentally, his commitment to excellence, leadership skills, and dedication to supporting planning and operations make him an excellent Spirit of Service awardee.
Trio Reveal How Greyshirts Have a Big Impact
Phil Collins, Roni Fraser, and Katrina Lambakis—from the North, South, and West branches, respectively—took home the ’23 Impact award, which goes to the Greyshirt whose actions on one or more operations made the most significant impact on the operation’s success while also embodying the mission of Team Rubicon.
Phil Collins, North Branch
Every once in a while, when you mention a Greyshirt’s name in a group, everyone will smile, chuckle, and say, “Damn. Yea, they’re solid.” That is Phil Collins to the core.
A Greyshirt since 2014, Collins recently got involved in logistics with the organization, leading the charge in St. Louis for multiple response and recovery operations.
Perhaps it’s a result of his time as a pilot in the Air Force, but Collins brings a level of organization and attention to detail that is unmatched by pretty much anyone around him. He is thorough and exceedingly competent, yet humble and the first to ask questions when he lacks experience with a policy or procedure. His reassuring presence and complete attention to detail can be felt even in his absence because he is able to foresee and prepare for almost any contingency, and communicates effectively what will need to be accomplished to Get Shit Done.
Collins has become a resource for many Greyshirts in the North Branch as well as key to supporting operations in the South Branch, but his impact can’t be measured in one instance. Rather, it’s his constant commitment to the organization, to the Greyshirt experience, and to constantly bettering himself that is something every Greyshirt should strive for.
Roni Fraser, South Branch
Roni Fraser doesn’t just serve her community; she is committed to enabling others to serve their community as well. Take, for example, her work building the San Antonio metro into a Resilient City: In the past 12 months, not only has she recruited and developed new greyshirts and leaders, hosted monthly service projects and well-being Wednesdays, and made community and national connections, she mentored other metro leaders on how to use what has been dubbed the “Roni Method” to build their metros as well.
Fraser’s service through TR isn’t limited to her metro leadership role either: she also stepped into the arena for C&GS roles and has instructed TR classes. Fraser did all of this while pursuing a Ph.D. in Emergency Management from the University of Delaware, where her research focuses on how disaster response agencies and organizations can better meet the needs of vulnerable persons affected by disasters.
Katrina Lambakis, West Branch
In the West Branch, there is a Greyshirt we liken to a stealth duck: above water all is smooth and serene; below water they are swimming and balancing and maneuvering like mad.
That is Katrina Lambakis: one cool character who makes it look like they are just going with the flow when in actuality, they are getting a ton of shit done. Lambakis can do this because they are so well-versed in their skill sets and so calm, so cool, so collected. So knowledgeable.
And stealthy. It seems like Lambakis is always around, in the background, displaying a high level of initiative by anticipating needs—knowing exactly what someone will need, often before they even know they need it.
And, talk about getting to yes… Has anyone ever heard them say they could not make something happen—be that in the mission planning process or operationally? If so, only in jest. Can we have trucks tomorrow? Yup! Can you make the Greyshirts a mini-golf area? Yup! What about a fleet of golf carts? Sure! Can we organize a s’mores night for culture time at the campfire in 45 minutes? Yup! Can you help mentor this Greyshirt? Of course!
Lambakis is also a leader who has mentored new Greyshirts who have just stepped into the arena as strike team leaders. And, when another Greyshirt needed to have conversations about leadership and leading adults in disasters, Lambakis stepped up to be that confidential friend, mentor, and coach.
Lambakis is the Greyshirt everyone wants on their mission planning team, in C&G, and just on any operation, in any form.
Maybe that’s why there are so many numbers to back her up: From March 2022 to March 2023, Lambakis deployed on six operations for a total of 26 operational periods and attended more than 20 events. This is in addition to doing things like working on MPT calls, cache inventories, moving vehicles for operations, and answering random questions people ask of her every single day.
The person who has made a lasting impact in the high-tempo area we like to call the West Branch, on multiple operations, for multiple years—and especially this year—is West Branch Deputy Logistics Lead Katrina Lambakis.
Greyshirts with Grit Acknowledged with Downrange Award
The Downrange Award celebrates the Greyshirt who, while on a specific operation, worked without hesitation, complaint, or concern, all while demonstrating grit and the overall get-shit-done attitude of Team Rubicon. This year’s Downrange Awards went to Mo Kerrigan of the North Branch, Stan Kubik from the South, and Noel Middleton from the West Branch.
Mo Kerrigan, North Branch
Maureen, aka “Mo,” is an exquisite greyshirt. While she holds a certain skill set that is typically highly needed on operations, she is no one-trick pony. Rather, Kerrigan is quick to do whatever is needed: She has been known to jump in and clean after meals, conduct spontaneous trailer inventories, and even offer to be an airport runner for logs. Mo will even conduct site surveys and validate work orders for ops.
During her time serving on Operation Sunshine Strong–Lee County, Mo was asked to extend her deployment to continue supporting the operation with her extensive experience and skills. She exemplifies “Mission First, Greyshirts Always” and is the gem of the op, making sure it’s successful.
Stan Kubik, South Branch
Stan Kubik took the Core Operations Train-the-Trainer course in September of 2022—just one before Hurricane Ida hit his home state of Florida. As Op Sunshine Strong spun up quickly, the training team was challenged to meet the needs of the operation by ensuring that new Greyshirts were prepared to Get Shit Done in the field. This challenge was going to require a huge commitment from those who had stepped into the arena as instructors: They would need to be on the ground every week to ensure we could get Greyshirts trained completely for the operation. While more than 50 Instructors gave their time to come to Florida and provide training, Kubik was one of the first to raise his hand: he not only taught core ops but was able to present the roof-tarping workshop as well.
From October 15 to December 16 of last year, Kubik was deployed to the receiving and distribution center location 10 times and was a major contributor to the accomplishment of training 317 Greyshirts trained in core ops and 307 Greyshirts in roof tarping. When he wasn’t instructing, Kubik assisted with providing logistics support from the RDC, such as gathering supply orders for the FOBs, making grocery store runs, helping in the kitchen, and pretty much anything else he saw needed to be done. Kubik was often seen helping others properly load a strike team truck and giving words of encouragement.
Fundamentally, Kubik gives his all and asks for nothing in return. He truly deserves this pat on the back for being a leader and a reliable guy who represents every Team Rubicon cultural principle while downrange.
Noel Middleton, West Branch
In the West Branch, the Greyshirt who rose up for the Downrange Award this year served on 11 deployments over 33 days in multiple states—from Kentucky to Florida to California—in 2022–’23. And, in addition, they attended 39 in-person events—ranging from shelter set-ups to saw cleaning days to town hall meetings with communities, blood drives, and meetings with local emergency managers to build relationships before the next disaster hits.
That Greyshirt is Noel Middleton, and while their numbers may tell a story, it’s their humanitarian heart that really led to their winning the Downrange Award for the West Branch this year.
Middleton regularly takes time to mentor and coach others, often without those others explicitly knowing they are being coached. If a member of C&G needs mentoring or a kind ear to vent to, he’s there to be their confidant; when representing Team Rubicon to the public, he is well-spoken yet also approachable.
His commitment to the positive greyshirt experience is evident in all that he does, from planning missions to getting things done on operations. Take, for example, when there was a water main break during an operation that could have impacted billeting: Middleton jumped right in to help try to fix it. Or, how, when the media team needed a person to speak on camera, he hit all the current talking points as if he’d written them himself.
And he knows how to build bridges inside and outside of the TRibe: When a disaster-affected community where Team Rubicon was serving was at odds with their local government, Middleton was able to step in and help repair the relationship. As a result, Team Rubicon was invited to become part of the community’s long-term recovery group.
With his impartiality, professionalism, and tenacity, as well as his unflagging willingness to jump in and GSD, Noel Middleton best demonstrates Team Rubicon’s principles of innovation, impartiality, tenacity, collaboration, and accountability in service.