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Aim High, Work Hard, and Stand Tall

My journey to Team Rubicon was somewhat unique compared to other stories I have heard over the years. When I first found Team Rubicon, I was conducting an online search of non-profits using ICS (Incident Command System). At the time, I was a Police Administrator and a State of Kansas IMT (Incident Management Team) member. I was tired of training year after year, waiting to put my skills to use during a large scale disaster. When I researched Team Rubicon, I watched all the videos, walked through the website about a dozen times, and finally signed up. This was late 2014.

I didn’t go any further with TR until 2015, when I emailed the Region VII leadership team and asked to become more involved. Before I knew it, I was neck deep in responsibility in field operations for the State of Kansas. I was given the opportunity to attend the 2015 Team Rubicon National Leadership Conference in Chicago, and shortly after, I got the nod to go to the IMT transition course.

 

Traci served as incident commander during a flood relief operation in Missouri in 2016.

 

Things really changed in January of 2016. Region VII was responding to flooding in the St. Louis area. As Regional Field Operations Manager, I was finally going to help plan and organize a response. Fate had it so that none of the other regional leaders could commit to being at the op at the beginning. I completed Recon and Advon with our new Regional Administer Zach Brooks-Miller, who was also on his first operation with TR.

Things came together in the Advon rather smoothly, until it came time to staff a command and general staff. Zach had to leave and could not help, and the other regional leaders were either already deployed somewhere else or unavailable. I literally had no idea who we could get to help. I had one contact in the adjoining region, so I called him up and nearly begged him to come help. He was on board and had a new planner he wanted to bring along. He warned me that this guy (Jim Flory) had not been a planner at TR op but he thought he could handle the job. I started to have some confidence we could at least get this party started.

 

Traci also led Operation Geaux Big in Louisiana in 2016 in the wake of severe flooding.

 

The morning Zach Brooks-Miller left and looked at me and said, “Good luck,” I was about as scared as I had been in years. I sat at that church by myself wondering if I was going to screw this thing all up and how I was going to explain to my family that I left them to go on this adventure and it was all a big mistake.

Throughout the day, the command and general staff showed up and we dove head first into organizing ourselves and bringing in Greyshirts to work. The biggest shock of the whole mission was how empowered I was as an incident commander. The organization did not know me from anyone and they stood behind me and support the operation fully. Coming from the government side of emergency response, I was fully prepared to be judged and “Monday morning quarterbacked” the whole way. I experienced the complete opposite. All I heard was what can we do for you and keep kicking ass.

I can’t define the secret sauce, but that operation from start to finish was amazing. I learned so much from the team and we stayed on mission and knocked it out of the park. The first experience on an operation told me one of the most important things I needed to know about Team Rubicon: It really was “Mission first, Greyshirts always.”

 

In 2017, Traci traveled to northern Illinois to serve residents impacted by widespread flooding.

 

From my first operation in early 2016 to 2018, I have had the great privilege to deploy all over the United States. I have met and worked with many amazing people along the way. The one thing I would encourage anyone interested in being in a command and general staff role is aim high and put in the work. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what sex you are, or who you know to get in the door. The tools you really need are hard work, ability to focus on the mission, common sense, tenacity, grit, and an ability to work with and for anyone.

I have always worked in careers that are predominately male—the military, law enforcement, and Team Rubicon. Of all these careers, I can without a doubt say that I have been most empowered, treated with respect, and felt that my sex did not define me within TR. Some think the term “Greyshirt” is quirky, but it doesn’t matter who you are when you wear it. Be yourself, get dirty, be a leader, and hold on for an awesome experience.

Traci Rankin is an Army veteran (1989-1993) and retired police lieutenant residing in Dodge City, Kansas. She currently serves as a Clay Hunt Fellow and leads on Team Rubicon's National Incident Management Team, training new field leaders across the country. Traci is also a school board member with Dodge City Schools and sits on the board of The Alley, a local teen center that promotes healthy, safe activities for youth.