From Haiti to Houston, veterans find a new mission in life with Team Rubicon as they help people affected by natural disasters.
"We've got 236 boots on the ground in Texas saving people and pets," says Jake Wood, former Marine sniper, founder and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles-based veteran service organization dedicated to disaster response.
"We have an additional 495 volunteers around the country providing logistics and communications support," he added. "We're a lean but mighty team."
Hundreds of Team Rubicon volunteers staged swift water rescues during Harvey, called the worst disaster to ever strike Texas, which so far has killed 70 people and displaced tens of thousands of residents.
- Aircraft Carrier Lincoln Heading to Florida for Irma Response
- Air Force's 'Hurricane Hunters' Now Stalking Irma
- Meet Team Rubicon
Now that waters are receding, volunteers are in a race against time to remove water damaged debris before mold sets in, Wood said. Team Rubicon expects to mobilize 2,000 volunteers over the course of the entire mission in Texas, he said.
"This is our largest disaster response ever," Wood says. "Our volunteers have really stepped up and we're seeing everyone pull together in remarkable ways."
What's more, as Hurricane Irma threatens the Florida coast, the organization has pre-staged gear and boats in Atlanta and identified volunteer teams to mobilize if any relief effort is needed.
The nonprofit has an annual operating budget of $12 million, and early estimates to help in Texas could cost around $4.5 million as they provide critical support. Teams will likely move in and out of the Texas region in waves for the next year and a half.
Their efforts even attracted the attention of President Donald Trump as he personally donated $1 million Wednesday to relief efforts, split between 12 different organizations, including $25,000 to Team Rubicon.
"There are three things that service-members lose when they leave the military," Wood said. "And those are community, mission, and a sense of purpose. Team Rubicon gives that back to them in spades."
The CEO said veterans are uniquely suited for disaster recovery and humanitarian assistance. His advice to military personnel transitioning to civilian life: Stay connected to the veteran community, never underestimate the skills you learned in the military and keep your hustle alive and strong.
To learn more about Team Rubicon and how you can help, visit TeamRubiconUSA.org. Supporters can also text HARVEY to 87872 to make a donation.