Bastrop Over Belize

Ben Eichel

Former U.S. Army Logistics Officer Ben Eichel chose to support the wildfire relief effort in Bastrop, TX over scuba diving in Belize.

After separating from the military just over a year ago, I heard about Team Rubicon through some friends on Facebook. The idea of meeting up with other veterans and first responders to bridge the gap and help people who suffered a natural disaster really excited me.

Earlier this month, I received an email stating Operation: Gingerbread Man had been extended and anyone within 450 miles is needed to come help victims of a recent wildfire. I was already planning to go to Belize with some friends to get some SCUBA time as well as relax in the sun, but I decided that my time would be better spent meeting up with Team Rubicon and seeing what their operations were all about.

34 members deployed to Bastrop, TX in the wake of the Hidden Pines Fire.

34 members deployed to Bastrop, TX in the wake of the Hidden Pines Fire.

As much as I’d love to be hanging out in the Caribbean, I’m so glad I responded to the TR email and was mobilized. For the first time in over a year, I’ve been surrounded by people who understand me and understand my personality. I’m finally able to work with a group of like-minded people focused on a common goal – to better those around them. I loved this deployment because I finally felt comradery and was part of a group that cares about each other as much as those they serve. Sure, we joke and rib each other – sometimes pretty hard, but it’s worth it.

2015.10.31_GingerbreadMan_LIU_004_web

Members closed out 26 work orders in Bastrop County, TX.

Walking out into the field under twisted and burnt trees, I felt confident knowing everyone around me had my back. Team Rubicon approaches operations much like the military. We engage in risk-prone activities, but there is planning and risk mitigation. We have team leads and a culture of respect – anyone can point out safety issues and they’re listened to. Everyone is willing to help out, bust their ass, and get their hands dirty.

OTJ chainsaw training on Operation: Gingerbread Man.

OTJ chainsaw training on Operation: Gingerbread Man.

A year after leaving the military, I realized something was missing in my life. Deploying with Team Rubicon has bridged that gap. This new family has given me a purpose and the excuse to go out and get shit done in the name of helping those in need. I only wish I would have joined sooner.

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