Operation: Wichita Recovery

After Action Report


Wichita, KS

Following a series of severe tornadoes and storm damage throughout the Midwest in mid-April, 2012, Team Rubicon’s Region VII element activated to respond to extensive damage in the hard-hit areas around Wichita, Kansas. The deployed personnel delivered and facilitated food and water supplies to local homes and cleared debris until it was established no further role was required of Team Rubicon in recovery efforts.

Thurman, IA

During Operation Wichita Recovery, Region VII’s Director of Personnel had been monitoring the situation in Thurman, IA, which took a direct hit by an EF-2 tornado. Following the end of operations in Wichita, the team regrouped in Kansas City on 4/15 to deploy the following day in Thurman. The team conducted damage assessments, tarped roofs, assisted homeowners and local authorities, and did extensive debris removal and chainsaw work.


Wichita, KS


The storms that hit Kansas and surrounding areas were anticipated at an early stage.  On April 14th, Region VII Director- Ford Sypher, Personnel Training and Coordinator- Rich Young, Intern- Aaron Elston, and member- Aaron Cook all met at the Region VII office for an incident management meeting in preparation of the storms.  They discussed what actions were to be taken in the event of severe storm damage to populated areas.  The decision had been made that Rich would post stand-by orders for all of Region VII on the Orgaction site.  Ford and Aaron were going to act as a mobile recon team and scout confirmed areas of tornado touchdowns.


While Ford and Aaron were providing mobile recon they assisted the Solomon Fire Department with live radar feeds of a tornado that had touched down only a few miles away.  The tornado did not come into contact with an immediate population, however, other storms at that same time did hit the Wichita area.  Ford and Aaron drove through the night, while navigating through storm cells in hope of reaching the damaged area of South Wichita.  Upon their arrival, they were forced to bed down because of the intensity of passing storms.  The following morning operations began at 0600.  TR members Tyler and Travis Tannahill joined the team at that time and assisted with operations.  There were multiple neighborhoods that had all been affected by the storms through the night, some taking major damage.  Search-and-Rescue operations were still being performed by the time the team had made it to the DZ.  After several attempts to assist in recovery efforts, the acting commander and fire chief granted Team Rubicon sole access in two separate neighborhoods.  Both areas had been severely damaged and had not received any aid or assistance from local authorities.

After TR assessed the damaged neighborhoods and made sure no medical attention was needed, they began to facilitate food rations to homeowners.  TR was able to facilitate the donation of multiple vehicles stocked with food and water.  The rations were delivered by TR members from house to house.  Victims were extremely grateful to have a meal and clean water, seeing how there had been no running water for over a day to their neighborhoods.  After taking care of basic homeowner needs, the team began clean up efforts.  One man requested that the team members clear a fallen tree from his shed, so he could get to his own personal chainsaw.  Others asked if pathways to and from their homes could be cleared of debris.  TR members worked on several homes and yards throughout the two neighborhoods which afforded victims some peace of mind.


The team ceased operations once the recovery efforts in both neighborhoods had been completed and a thorough survey of surrounding areas showed no further need of Team Rubicon.  Upon completion of recovery efforts Ford and Tyler were able to meet U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and discuss the assistance Team Rubicon members provided as well as future endeavors to come.

Thurman, IA


Over the course of a few days many storm super cells produced multiple tornados throughout the great plains.  One of these many tornados was in a direct path for the town of Thurman, Iowa.  The tornado produced forces equivalent to an EF-2 and landed a direct hit on Thurman.  Unfortunately, 75% of Thurman received substantial damage ranging from complete structure loss to downed trees and power lines.

While Region VII was already deployed to Wichita, their Director of Personnel, Rich Young, was closely monitoring the Thurman situation.  Rich had established a point of contact in Iowa (Carol McCoy) to provide crucial intel on damage assessment and what resources were going to be needed for a response.  Upon the completion of operations in Wichita, the decision had been made to regroup at the Region VII headquarters in Kansas City for preparation in the deployment of an Iowa response.  During

the five hour drive back it had been decided that the newest member of Region VII, Aaron Cook (out of Salt Lake City, UT) would be leading this operation.  Exhausted from the previous mission, the team decided for safety reasons to spend the night in Kansas City and head out to Iowa early the following morning.

The team departed Lawrence, KS at 0500 heading to Platte, MO.  Arrived in Platte, MO at 0600 and rallied with two TR members after which they then consolidated themselves and their gear into two vehicles.  The team’s arrival time to the DZ was roughly 1200.


Upon the team’s arrival in Thurman they were met with unbelievable damage.  Homes had been ravaged, walls were torn down and trees were on top of cars.  The streets were so full of debris that the team could barely make their way to the EOC.  At the EOC the team met up with their POC and were introduced to the mayor of Thurman.  From here the tasks were assigned and a plan of action was created.

The team was ordered to divide into smaller units and perform damage assessments for individual homes.  This was going to be completed on a four zones basis, being divided from the most severe to minor damage.  Once the team completed damage assessments they were then to begin tarping roofs on homes that were still capable of being occupied because of the storms that were still headed for the town.  From here the team would then move down the list of damage assessment forms and complete the necessary tasks.

Our daily activities included damage assessment, roof/window tarping, resupplying homeowners with needed materials, debris removal, EOC assistance in command protocols and a vast majority of chainsaw work.


The members of Team Rubicon stayed in Thurman longer than any other volunteer group.  They continued to complete any tasks that were handed to them until the very end.  Throughout the Thurman response, there were multiple issues that had arisen.  However, every member of the team was great with critical thinking and overcame these obstacles with ease.



Operation: Wichita Recovery & Thurman Response




April 14, 2012 – April 18, 2012


Wichita, KS & Thurman, IA


Facilitate in Emergency Home Repair as the result of excessive tornado damage. Structural Damage Assessments. Debris Clearing

























Wichita, KS

Thurman, IA

Ford Sypher (Army) – Team Leader

Aaron Cook (Paramedic) – Team Leader

Aaron Cook (Paramedic) – Asst Team Leader

Rich Young (Navy)

Tyler Tannahill (Marines)

Carol McCoy (Army)

Travis Tannahill (civilian)

Max Jones (Navy)

Max Jones (Navy)

Ross Bridges (Marine)

Dough McThail (Air Force)

Clayton (Marine recruit)


  1. 1. If the EOC does not have a proper chain of command, the entire operation suffers.
  1. 2. The way our team presents themselves to the community makes a lasting impression on those homeowners and determines whether or not they will ask for our assistance.
  1. 3. If we take a small amount of time out of the day to converse with the individuals in these areas, we may make connections or get “our foot in the door” in places that we least expect it.
  1. 4. Not having the appropriate equipment for the job can make for a much difficult task than needs be.
  1. 5. When we have appropriate equipment, i.e. chainsaws, and our team does not know how to use them, then we cannot accomplish as much.
  1. 6. The distances traveled to and from the EOC and the areas of operation can add up.  Eventually, leading to an unproductive day.
  1. 7. An initial Recon/Survey Team, allows for a much more accurate and detailed assessment of affected areas.  The Recon Team also gives way to many other possibilities as far as SAR’s and    cooperation and communication with other first responders.
  1. 8. Building a rapport with local VOAD’s and EOC is critical for future endeavors.


  1. 1. An equipment trailer is a must, not only for allowing quick access to supplies for deployment but a more mobile unit while in the DZ.
  1. 2. Communications are a must, we need better systems in place for communicating between HQ, the TL, the EOC and the rest of the deployed team.  This could be done through radios and wireless internet cards.
  1. 3. If we go into the DZ with an insufficient supply of equipment then we are not able to live up to the Team Rubicon standards.  We need a standardized gear and equipment supply for each deployment.
  1. 4. The more credentialed members the better.  Our team needs to be recognizable beyond t-shirts.  Our vehicles need to be marked, we need pamphlets to hand out in some cases and we should have some form of credentials to get us in areas that others cannot.
  1. 5. Our team’s skill sets play a vital role in who we are and what we can do.  However, when the majority of the team lacks knowledge in common areas we are useless.  Team members need to be certified in many aspects of disaster relief.  I feel having the team trained in the wild land firefighter’s Red Card Course, we could be much more effective in a wide variety of aspects.