Basecamp 4 marks a number of firsts for the Clay Hunt Fellows Program, including the first international fellow from Canada and the first Greyshirts to have joined during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each member of the cohort will undertake six months of leadership and disaster response training that will challenge them to discover their strengths and develop a deeper understanding of themselves. Through readings, discussions, and guided self-awareness exercises that focus on the experience of life out of uniform, they will emerge ready to lead in the field and in their lives. These fellows come to the program with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, but what they all have in common, and what they share with Clay, is a desire to continue serving others.
Jason Barbosa served in the Marine Corps for seven years followed by a 21-year career in public education. Now, he works as an advisor for an international security company and coaches youth lacrosse at the club and high school levels. Barbosa holds a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and master’s degree from Chapman University, and he received his principal license from the University of Denver.
Barbosa has only been a Greyshirt since March of this year but has already stepped up to serve as the membership lead for Colorado and Wyoming. He says the thing he appreciates most about Team Rubicon is, “working together with like-minded individuals who all have the attitude to GSD! I love it when we show up to an operation and all those Greyshirts are ready to go and willing to do whatever is needed.”
Reflection on Service: Service is placing the needs of others before oneself.
Huntington Beach, CA
David Blackketter served in the Coast Guard for 27 years and holds a bachelor’s degree in emergency and disaster management from the American Military University.
Blackketter has been a Greyshirt for a little under a year and his first deployment was Kick the King in Garden Grove, CA. In the short time since that op, he has been contracted by the Field Leadership Team and he stepped up to serve as the Deputy Planning Coordinator for Orange County. Blackketter says the most impactful thing about volunteering with Team Rubicon is “serving alongside like-minded individuals who are determined to give their best every day and GSD!”
Reflection on Service: I truly believe that helping others, in any capacity with no expectation of receiving anything in return, has a tremendous impact on the world. It sets a positive example for others to follow and it provides hope in the face of despair.
Newport News, VA
Courtney Castillo served for six years in the Army and is currently a team member at Kenyon International emergency training and consulting. She’s finishing up an associate degree of applied science in homeland security and emergency management from Central Texas College and in her free time volunteers with Serve the City and The Mission Continues.
Castillo has been a Greyshirt for one year and her first deployment was on Operation Hana Holokai performing wildfire mitigation for a community on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Her most memorable experience with Team Rubicon was watching a fellow Greyshirt on deployment stick up for one of the town’s most vulnerable citizens. She says, “It made me so proud that we have these strong, amazing individuals in this organization, and to also be a part of it.”
Reflection on Service: Service is helping others in need; no matter who they are, where they come from, status, gender, disability, or ethnicity. Our incident commander on an operation once asked, “does it matter who opens the door?” My immediate thought was no, I just want them to allow me to help them.
Samuel Danna served in the Army for three and half years and now works as a security consultant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Iowa as well as a Global Information Assurance Certificate. Danna also volunteers with FourBlock, helping veterans transition into civilian careers and accomplish their professional goals.
Danna joined Team Rubicon less than one year ago and has yet to deploy but speaking with fellow Greyshirts about their experiences has made him more eager than ever to get on an operation.
Reflection on Service: For me, service is having the self-awareness to subdue your own personal needs and, in an effort to lead, putting the needs of your team, community, or peers above all else.
Garden City, NY
Russ Fincher served a combined 12 years of active and reserve duty in the Coast Guard performing small boat rescue. After leaving the military, he earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from Susquehanna University then worked as a laboratory manager and cancer researcher. Now, Fincher works for the FBI where he is assigned as a computer forensic examiner at the New York Field Office. He is also a member of the FBI’s Hazardous Evidence Team and Rapid Deployment Team. The volunteer organizations he’s involved with include his church, Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic Youth Organization, Garden City Basketball, and he used to be a volunteer firefighter.
Fincher became a Greyshirt a little after COVID-19 broke out in the U.S. and his first engagement with Team Rubicon was self-deploying as part of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Since joining, he has become the logistics lead for the Long Island Metro area. About his experience with Team Rubicon, he says, “I am continually impressed by TR’s Greyshirts’ ability to get to YES and respond to help forgotten people in impossible circumstances.”
Reflection on Service: My closet is filled with a lifetime of ‘service uniforms’—from the military, coaching, law enforcement, scouting, and firefighting. Some are elaborate and decorated with ranks and awards, but one is just a simple grey shirt. That shirt reminds me that service is not about awards and recognition, it’s about humbly using my talents to help others who can’t help themselves with food, water and shelter. Service is that ‘fierce instinct to help’ which gives me and Team Rubicon its purpose.”
Ananias Hill served 15 years active duty and three years as a reservist in the Air Force. Today, he works as an emergency vehicle dispatcher at Buckley Air Force Base, receiving aircraft emergency notifications and responding with appropriate personnel and equipment. As well, Hill is working towards a degree in cybersecurity management and policy at the University of Maryland Global Campus.
Hill has been a Greyshirt since 2017 and his first deployment was on Operation Strike It Rich in his home state of Missouri. He says that being able to serve his own community as he was making the transition out of the military is the most meaningful experience he has had with Team Rubicon.
Reflection on Service: Service is a connection that I share with my father and brother. Serving and doing the work that others cannot do is a characteristic that my father instilled in my brother and me at a young age. My father is the key role model in my life and being able to follow in his footsteps as a serviceman in the U.S. armed forces was the greatest accomplishment of my life.
Sara Huibregtse served for a combined six years in the Navy and the Wisconsin Army National Guard. She holds degrees in computer science and education from Capella University, Cardinal Stritch University, and Lakeland College. When she’s not in her grey shirt, Huibregtse works as an assistant professor of computer science and volunteers with the American Legion and Team Red, White & Blue.
Huibregtse has been a Greyshirts since 2018 and enjoys watching interactions in the Ohio Facebook group because it reminds her of her relationships with military connections. She says, “It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since we last spoke, we are always able to pick up like no time has passed.”
Reflection on Service: Service can be applied at many levels within a community, but for me, the most important service we do is at the individual level when we take a moment to truly sit, listen, engage, and support an individual. Being present in that moment allows us to get to the heart of the community by engaging with one person at a time to ensure that they know they personally matter to the community.
Keith James served in the Army for 14 years and is now a student at Southern New Hampshire University. In addition to serving with Team Rubicon, he also volunteers with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
James has been a Greyshirt since 2017 and has deployed 13 times. His latest deployment was on Operation Kick the King where he worked at one of the Verily COVID-19 testing sites in California. On the experience with Team Rubicon that means the most to him, James has this to say, “Every time I think I have the found the experience that has had the biggest impact on me, a bigger impact is always happening. TR is always impacting experiences in everyone’s life in a different way, every time you put on a grey shirt, talk to a Greyshirt, or watch a Greyshirt sweat. Being a Greyshirt has been the biggest impact on me and serving with some of the greatest humans willing to see the best in humans and not the bullshit.”
Reflection on Service: Service means being there to help anyone without anything in return and just always paying it forward with a reward that the future will be a better world with happy people.
Kevin Johnston served in the Army for four years and now works in the field of external affairs. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Dickinson College and a master’s degree in international relations from St. Mary’s University. In addition to serving with Team Rubicon, Johnston also volunteers with Rugged Saints and Habitat for Humanity.
Johnston has been a Greyshirt for four years. In that time, he has volunteered for multiple trainings with Team Rubicon and partnership events with The Mission Continues and the Fairfax Fire Department. He has also served on the Houston Rebuild and says that working there has been his most meaningful experience with Team Rubicon.
Reflection on Service: To serve is to help those who cannot help themselves.
Barry Pemberton served in the Army for 25 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University and now works protecting the country’s critical infrastructure from terrorism. In addition to volunteering with Team Rubicon, Pemberton is also a member of The Mission Continues and Team Red, White & Blue.
Pemberton has been a Greyshirt for four years and currently holds the roles of Midwest Territory core operations cadre lead and Indiana deputy state administrator. His first deployment on Operation Country Roads in West Virginia was also his most impactful experience with Team Rubicon. He says, “The second I arrived it was like being back with my Brothers and Sisters, and I needed that badly.”
Reflection on Service: Service to me is what makes life worth living. You help out people on their worst day and treat them how you would want them to treat your family if the roles were reversed.
As a Canadian, Andrei Roberge is the first Canadian Clay Hunt Fellow. Roberge served for 20 years in the Canadian Army and now works at the Team Rubicon Canada headquarters. He attended the University of Manitoba where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, and he’s currently completing his master’s degree in disaster and emergency management at York University.
Roberge has been a Greyshirt for a year and half, and his most memorable moment has been launching his first operation during only his second week with Team Rubicon Canada. “It was great to be able to make quick decisions at the HQ level in order to help those in need,” he says “It was also an amazing introduction to some of the volunteer leadership. And the great teamwork from that operation is maintained to this day.”
Reflection on Service: Service is doing something for others, period. There are no hidden motives. You’re not doing it to get promoted, to get another job, or to look good in front of someone. Service is something that involves you having to sacrifice and give something for others (time, resources, etc…) that can never be fully repaid.
Kristina Sawyckyj served five years in the Navy reserves. She studied at Seattle University and now works as a licensed nurse. In addition to volunteering with Team Rubicon, Sawyckyj is an intern at a homelessness advocacy and outreach group.
Sawyckyj has been a Greyshirt for three years, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 hit that she felt motivated to deploy on Operation Kick the King. Volunteering at one of Team Rubicon’s food support events made a serious impact on her. “The people who we serve are so happy to get help and so thankful,” she says. “In May-June, I spent most of my time simply waving and saying ‘welcome.’ The relief in someone’s eyes when they ask you if anyone can get food and you say yes … it brings a peace over my soul.”
Reflection on Service: Service means giving of yourself to help others and the community, as an act of your soul. My elders instilled service in me when I was little, and I have been able to instill service in my kids, as well. A person’s soul needs for them to provide service to others, no matter at which level they can. The act of service is accepted at the level where a person is.
Nate Slavik served in the Navy for nine years and has attended the U.S. Naval Academy where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics and the University of Florida where he earned an MBA. Today, he works at Marathon Petroleum Corp.
Slavik has been a Greyshirt for two years and has yet to have the opportunity to deploy, but he says, “at this point, just being a member has had a positive influence on me.”
Reflection on Service: Simple…it’s not about you. From the simplest household task to joining the military, if you do an act for someone or something else besides yourself.