Updated: Mar 20
Working with veterans from running businesses to responding to disasters is always an impressive experience. I just returned from the Philippines where I worked with Team Rubicon (www.teamrubiconusa.org) a military veteran disaster response organization I have supported for some time. This NGO, unlike so many is lean, mean, capable and very solution focused. They dont typically play by the rules – not because they actively rebel or have a disregard for authority or protocols in place when it comes to disaster response, but because they typically see a challenge, identify a solution and go about executing as apposed to getting caught up in processes and protocols. I respect that.
Every disaster response has its unique eccentricities. While lessons learned and contacts made in the realm of the humanitarian assistance and disaster response community at previous disasters help tremendously, in each successive occurrence, there is no one size fits all template that can be applied to standing up a successful response plan. The Philippines was no exception.
The most critical need when I hit the ground in the Philippines was establishing a logistics and operational base for Team Rubicon (www.teamrubiconusa.org), the organization I deployed to support. While they had a deployed team conducting search and rescue, and, providing immediate medical triage in the areas around Tacloban City, they had little infrastructure to support current and ongoing operations in the Philippines. Disaster response requires significant infrastructure, and it demands essentially building a fully functioning business in a foreign country in the matter of a few days.
My particular skill set is rapidly adapting to, and navigating in, foreign places, so, I went to work alongside Amanda Burke, Lance Corp. Stick Fingers AKA. Dave Smith and with the other Team Rubicon members both back in the States and in the Philippines serving as a fixer for the organization to work to help set the team up to have the capacity to affect change. The only way to do that is to identify, form relationships with, and to augment and empower local initiatives.
Within the first day on the ground I teamed up with Reul Kapunan, founder of Pilipinas 911 (http://www.pilipinas911.com/) – the private 911 response system of Manila. With his help we managed to have customs police expedite our arriving teams through security, and had found our first base camp in Manila in his 911 call center. I was then introduced to Jun by Ruel, the CEO and founder of Tao Corp (http://www.taocommunity.com/home), which is one of the largest distributors in the country. With subsidiaries ranging from telecommunications, to medical supply, Jun, Ruel and his resources became invaluable assets for Team Rubicon. Why? Because Jun, Ruel and their people had intimate local knowledge, a robust distribution and supply chain, including warehouses, trucks, personnel and the ability to help guide efforts by helping us to navigate everything from customs to forward operating base locations.
Every little detail had to be addressed from how to handle incoming supplies, to getting them cleared through customs, to transporting them from one airfield to another, to storing them, and, to air-lifting them to deployed teams – every one of these facets required a tremendous amount of detail, planning and finesse. Team Rubicon and I understand, viscerally, the importance of working with, and, supporting local assets. Nothing is more important than building indigenous capacity as soon as possible and to inquiring as to how to best be of assistance instead of assuming you know what is best.
So we asked drafted MOUs and sought approval from: • The Philippine military • Dept. of Health • NDRRMC – Philippines FEMA • DSW – Dept. of Social Welfare • US military, Marines, Air Force operating in the Philippines
We made all of these organizations aware of who we were and what we were capable of, and, that standing behind our local partners, we were ready and willing to contribute in anyway they needed within our capabilities.
After having a customs clearing solution, transportation for gear and personnel, warehousing, local
facilitation partners and the necessary approvals all in Manila, I deployed to Tacloban City to arrange a base of operations off the airfield where the team had been stationed and trucks for our teams of medics on the ground. Within the first day we had secured a warehouse and three large trucks for transportation of gear and personal – a rare commodity in the region. Moving our teams off of the airfield where they were previously camped right next to the helicopter-pads was critical to ensure sanity of the team and an effective base camp.
I then spent a day walking around the base-camp on a roving medical patrol and treated basic injuries from a nail puncture wound to fungal infections prior to returning to Manila and leaving for the US.
Team Rubicon successfully deployed over 65 volunteers including medical professionals that have preformed deliveries and numerous surgeries since Haiyan hit and crippled medical infrastructure to four different locations including Tacloban City, Guiuan, Carigara and Tanauan
• Hired local businesses to help jumpstart their crippled operations for trucking and warehousing
• Set up an infrastructure that our local partners can leverage and continue to build upon to carry out their own long-term response and rebuilding initiatives.
Working with everyone at Team Rubicon was a world class experience as always. This was a true massive team effort and everyone from the Co-Founder Jake Wood to every last volunteer played a critical role in executing this mission. None of this happens without a monstrously powerful team and it was an honor as always to work to play a role in the overall joint initiative.
From William McNulty Co-Founder of team Rubicon: “Want to say thanks to my good friend Jesse Levin for helping coordinateTeam Rubicon’s response in the Philippines. Jesse has proven to be an invaluable asset for some of our largest responses. Jesse is currently with the team in Guiuan, Philippines.”
Jun, CEO of Tao: “Your sacrifice to come to our country and help our people inspire us to continue the work you started. We will certainly try our best to finish the seeds you planted.”
If there are any questions, or if you want to hear more about the deployment please feel free to contact me directly at 203-275-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you again for the support.