A “Swiss Army Knife in the Field” Named Volunteer Leader of Year

Jonas Reynolds

A disaster response volunteer who served everywhere from the Navajo Nation to Haiti took home Team Rubicon’s 2022 Leader of the Year award.

In mid-May, Team Rubicon acknowledged volunteers across the U.S for their exemplary service. Nine Greyshirts were acknowledged with the Spirit of Service, Impact, and Downrange awards; one received the organization’s Leader the Year award, which celebrates the Greyshirt whose actions best demonstrated Team Rubicon’s service principles of innovation, impartiality, tenacity, collaboration, and accountability and service to others. 

Winning this year was a Greyshirt who serves as a geographic administrator, an instructor, and a volunteer leader, and is a local, national, and international deployer. To other Greyshirts, she is also known for throwing her heart into those she serves beside, and as the person you call at 1:00 a.m. and who stays on the line until you’re safe. 

“I think it’s important to note that there were some amazing—absolutely amazing—nominations and write-ups across the branches, but one of them ultimately won,” said Team Rubicon CEO Art delaCruz.

For 2022, the Greyshirt of the Year, who goes by “Red” and who lives the Team Rubicon values and kicks ass while doing it, is Rachel Alford.

Over the last year, Alford served in C&G roles, put in trigger time as a sawyer and saw boss, and tirelessly invested in her geographic area. She guided her team through five operations, including one where she worked with local emergency management to identify a Spanish-speaking community wary of government assistance. She then directly recruited Spanish-speaking Greyshirts to serve on that operation. Her actions resulted in Team Rubicon bringing help to an incredibly vulnerable & underserved community.

Alford also deployed twice to the Navajo Nation, where she provided medical support and inspired a policy that permanently integrated paramedics into their emergency rooms. Then, when asked to rapidly deploy to Haiti as a paramedic in the wake of last year’s earthquake, she didn’t hesitate. On the ground, we saw her boundless compassion for others. She encouraged a parent to let her hold their child as they received care so that the child wouldn’t associate the pain with their parent.

“When an earthquake impacted the country of Haiti In August 2021, Rachel Alford stepped into the arena and deployed on short notice for Team Rubicon’s medical response,” explained a Greyshirt who nominated her for the award. “As a member of wave one, Rachel and her team reached Haiti less than 72 hours after the earthquake. “As one of three paramedics on her team, Rachel directed much of the patient triage in the ER. She assessed patients, treated countless wounds, comforted families, and collaborated with local Haitian medical staff sometimes just giving them a well-deserved break. Back at the compound, Rachel recognized the need for a medical logistics lead for the team’s daily loadout. While others rested, she often worked late into the night refining the medical loadout for the following day to ensure that all of the medical providers were as equipped as possible. After she fell and injured her knee, the question was asked whether she felt she could continue on the mission safely. Rachel dug deep, wrapped and iced the knee, and chose to stay with her team. Determined not to become a burden, she continued to work as much as her leadership and medical staff allowed. Her actions were so valuable to the success of the mission, she was asked to stay for the second wave. 

With wave two, she and her new team left the city and traveled into the mountains where they provided primary care to under-resourced and isolated communities. When all was said and done, Rachel was the only Greyshirt who stayed for the entirety of waves one and two, putting her in country longer than any other volunteer. Amid a physically and mentally stressful and challenging environment, Rachel continued to find a way forward. She consistently acted as a swiss army knife in the field adapting to what was needed with no thought of her own gain or ego. She persevered and showed the highest levels of grit, tenacity, and a Get Shit Done attitude.”

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