Disaster Responders Earn Leadership Awards

Julie H. Case

Volunteers known for GSD were recognized at Team Rubicon’s annual leadership conference.

Ten Team Rubicon volunteers, or Greyshirts, were acknowledged for their exemplary service over the past year. Here’s a look at the awards, and the awardees. 

Spirit of Service Award

This award celebrates the military veteran Greyshirt who most exhibits the service above self mentality that characterized Clay Hunt

Three Greyshirts took home the Spirit of Service award for 2022: Michael Angotti of the North Branch, Brenda Nurre, from the South Branch, and Michael Rosenberger, of the West Branch.

Michael Angotti

Michael Angotti took over as the Boston Area Administrator in 2021 while continuing as the membership leader for the Boston area. Michael drove virtual and in-person events every month during the year, building a strong organization and providing Greyshirts opportunity for engagement. He hosted downrange meetings with topics of Team Rubicon medical, planning, heavy equipment, and advon/recon in an urban environment. He also built a partnership with the Massachusetts Audubon Society and led a day of service event, drove a Grab Your Go Bag event, a site survey event, and a Saw 1 class that attracted Greyshirts from across the region. 

“Mike does not only lead, but he served as a Greyshirt on multiple days doing vaccination support,” said a Greyshirt who nominated him for the award. “He deployed to operation Niagara rising and was dispatched during Hurricane Ida to do Recon in New Jersey. Mike exemplifies service about self and advances Team Rubicon’s mission every day.”

Brenda Nurre

Brenda Nurre’s nomination for this award spoke for itself—especially for those taking in the Team Rubicon Leadership Conference who benefited from live captions or transcription. 

“In addition to being a top-notch leader across the West and South Branches—and a veteran with an unbelievable story helping others—I challenge you to find a Greyshirt who has done more for Team Rubicon in terms of accessibility than Brenda. Hell, her Greyshirt name bar is illustrated with ASL signs! If you have the benefits of live captions or transcripts for this TRLC, it’s because of Brenda Get-Shit-Done Nurre,” explained one of her nominators. 

“She is TIRELESS in showing us her experiences, which translates to new tools and accessibility options for other Greyshirts who are hearing impaired. A few years ago, Brenda earned her Sawyer qualification despite her hearing impairment; while that is not my story to tell, I ask you to ask *her* how intense it is to put on PPE and hear nothing at all. If she can don it safely, so can you, and Team Rubicon is here to find a way to make it possible for all people who wish to volunteer. Brenda is also an incredible mother, dog trainer, and a person all her own in so many faucets I can never describe. She is Mission First, Greyshirts Always…. and I am so proud to serve alongside her every damned chance I get.”

Mike Rosenberger 

Greyshirt Mike Rosenberger deployed on almost every mitigation operation Team Rubicon had in Southern California in the last two years, serving for more days in the field than anyone else in that geographic area. 

“Mike Rosenberger is one of those people you just want on your team. Always positive, open, and willing to learn, he is as good in a leadership role as he is as part of the group,” said his nominator. He is also known for working incredibly hard in any role given, whether that’s felling, swamping, or taking the time to assist a new sawyer and patiently mentor. “I was so happy to see him step into the arena further and take the Chainsaw Instructor course and become one of our newest Chainsaw Instructors and immediately teach two saw classes, resulting in 20 new sawyers. He truly embodies the culture and values of Team Rubicon and the spirit of service.”

Impact Award

Carson Burnett, Bob Appledoorn, and Debra Lawton, from the North, South, and West branches respectively, took home the ’22 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. 

Carson Burnett

There are so many volunteer leaders who go above and beyond for Team Rubicon while out in the field, but it takes a good bit of grit to extend that attitude beyond the norm. Carson Burnett shows that grit. 

“These, of course, are not normal times and require innovative thinking and a willingness to dive into the deep end of the pool. As a member of the North Branch finance team, this leader recognized a need and utilized his skills to make a significant impact on Enduring Eagle by helping to create a more functional method of managing and accounting for funds dedicated to this project. He works tirelessly to help ensure those donor dollars are accounted for on each of more than a dozen concurrently run operations. Additionally, he takes the time to recognize that the tasks at hand require more than just one individual to get shit done and makes certain that everyone on the team knows they are important. Carson Burnett is representative of how a good leader will strive to inspire great leaders,” said another Greyshirt who nominated him. 

Bob Appledoorn

Bob Appledoorn single-handedly created and grew, and also coordinates, the Situation Unit, which is impressive all on its own, but the reason for at least one nomination was his tireless efforts as an excellent mentor. 

“All of us receive a great deal of personal mentoring and counsel from Bob Appledoorn on a regular basis,” explained the nominator. “He exemplifies the very best of servant leadership. He has truly dedicated his heart and soul to this project and its people. Of the many excellent mentors I have had in Team Rubicon, I have learned the most from Bob.”

Debra Lawton

Debra Lawton, the West Branch’s fearless finance leader out of Missoula, MT, earned the Impact award for the incredible impact she has made on that branch’s operations in her role. 

“Since April 2021, Debbie has served as the Finance Section Chief for 16 operations across six out of seven of our geographic areas, ensuring donor dollars were spent wisely and accounted for,” explained one Greyshirt, “and that does not take into consideration the 147 non-operational events she served as the finance representative for, which span all GATs and encompass leadership conferences, cache inventories, wellness events, VOAD meetings, EM capabilities briefings, and training events. It’s safe to say that, with Debbie’s leadership, mom’s dollar is in safe hands and she is ensuring Team Rubicon’s transparency with our donors!”

Downrange Award

Celebrating the Greyshirt who, while on a specific operation, worked without hesitation complaint or concern while demonstrating grit and the overall get-shit-done attitude of Team Rubicon, the Downrange Award went to Russ Hessler of the North Branch, Shari Porterfield from the South, and CJ Gribble from the West Branch. 

Russ Hessler

“Russ Hessler lives and breathes Team Rubicon’s service principles. He served as one of the two primary site leads for Operation Eagle Landing at Camp Atterbury, IN, from early September until the operation was demobilized in January. In addition to knocking it out of the park week after week at the operation, representing Team Rubicon to the highest degree, he also remained dedicated to his role as instructor and state volunteer leader, oftentimes arranging his downtime from the operation to coincide with a training course that he was instructing. 

“His dedication to TR, the greyshirts he served alongside and the communities we all serve is undeniable. I cannot think of a more deserving individual for this award.”

Shari Porterfield

An excellent and selfless Greyshirt, mentor, planner, and friend, Shari Porterfield sets an example of excellence and consideration that few others can match. 

“She is a fantastic communicator and has an astounding ability to overcome any obstacle she may encounter. Although she has been driven to the brink of stepping down on more than one occasion, she has always stepped away from the edge out of consideration and concern for her fellow Greyshirts,” said another Greyshirt of the nominee. “Shari Porterfield will do anything for anybody and whatever it takes to get the job done. She has served as a general Greyshirt, a sawyer, in most positions on command and general staff, as well as incident command positions. She is the go-to person to get things done.”

CJ Gribble 

CJ Gribble demonstrated unparalleled leadership and grit while serving as the Incident Commander during Operation Still Standing, a wildfire recovery operation in the Pacific Northwest. After the town of Malden, WA was nearly entirely destroyed—roughly 80% of the town’s structures were lost to the Babb-Malden fire in 2020—CJ and her team took up this mission and conducted seven days of recovery work, including hazard tree removal. 

“CJ’s relationship with the local officials, and the efforts she made to integrate with the community of Malden clearly stands out to me as an example of where one Greyshirt demonstrating grit was able to inspire other Greyshirts and be a true symbol of hope to disaster survivors.”

In addition to the Spirit of Service, Impact, and Downrange awards, Team Rubicon also handed its Greyshirt Leader of the Year Award to Rachel Alford, who deployed everywhere from the Navajo Nation to Haiti last year.

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