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A volunteer team in Moore helps its members too

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
June 17, 2013


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Countless groups have flooded Moore in the minutes, hours, days, and weeks since the tornado May 20th. Some of them are the usual leading groups – like the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. Others are smaller, less organized teams that came together in the days after the tragedy, such as Serve Moore. Then, there’s the nationwide Team Rubicon. Growing quickly, it’s mostly military vets, who want another chance to serve after they put away their uniform…

About forty big guys – these are guy’s guys, plus a couple girls, are working on this lot in Moore, where a house once stood intact. Now, they’re taking it apart bit by bit – picking through to find any keepsakes, knocking down walls, and getting everything to the curb. As co-founder of Team Rubicon, William McNulty says it was a logical fit.

“It’s just taking the skills and the structure that we learned in the military and now applying that, repurposing that for disaster response.”

McNulty served in Iraq, as a private contractor. Soon after leaving the adrenaline packed war zone, he felt like something was missing.

“The military is, it’s a weird animal that civilians really might not understand, but there’s a job in the military for everyone. Think of a military base as a small city.”

The military culture is maintained, through and through. Team Rubicon is spending nights at a high school gym in Minco – what do they call it? The barracks. Their headquarters is not a command center – it’s a forward operating base, or FOB. Here’s Sean Gliniwiecz, who is on his first “deployment”…

“Sleeping on a cot with a rent a room with a hundred other people, it’s just like deploying. Except there’s no incoming rounds, you’re not hearing the whistles.”

They technology pops up in the field, though. Colin Wyman is helping run the communications equipment. These aren’t your standard 2 way radios…teams have GPS units that take pictures of damage, beam them back to the FOB, and get plotted on maps. The same company – Palintir – that makes the gear for use in Iraq and Afghanistan supplies them for Team Rubicon.

“It’s pretty critical because you don’t want teams running all over the place, looking for work. Here’s an area that needs a lot of work and it’s going to take you two or three days to do.”

Highlighter yellow, pink, purple and more cover the maps hanging in the communications tent. There’s a running tally of the number of sites surveyed – more than 2-thousand, and works orders completed. The technical details might take the volunteers back to the war zone, but it’s more about the teamwork.

After 22 years in the Air Force, Sean started a six figure job in Colorado Springs. He didn’t hold back on how that went.

“I walked into the corporate world, and it sucks. You’re around a whole bunch of guys who don’t know their a– from a hole in the ground. Most of them never deployed, most of them have never been in the military.”

So he walked away. He had the savings, and wanted some sense of purpose. Wanted to be around guys who get it, get him, and want to get things done.

“You really don’t have that once you leave the military and you really miss it. I know what most of these guys have been through. I’m one of two Air Force guys out here, I was embedded with the Army for nine months.”

As he picked up the pieces of a home, there was a sense of accomplishment.

“I would probably say about 80/20. I do a lot of this for myself. And this is a good opportunity to get out and give back to the community.”

There’s a lot more who want to sweat outside, go back to a cramped high school gym, and spend some time with their brothers. That raises a whole new dilemma for Team Rubicon co-founder William McNulty.

“Too many are raising their hands for us to manage for one response. We need to responsibly grow this organization so that we can engage more guys because the need is definitely there.”

McNulty says their primary goal is to start the healing process for veterans. It’s isn’t called therapy, but they all acknowledge the power of Team Rubicon.

“Because no one’s trying to kill you, it becomes a very cathartic experience because  you’re just out here to help people.”


Team Rubicon says they already have more than 10-thousand volunteers ready to respond to disasters, and are growing every day. Much of their funding and support comes from corporations like Palintir – that’s the group that donated the communications equipment – and Home Depot – who gives them space to set up their forward operating base and the tools they need. They hope to stay in Moore as late as mid July.

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