How was your team involved in the Hurricane Sandy Rescue Efforts?
I got involved in the Hurricane Sandy Response via Team Rubicon USA (teamrubiconusa.org), a veteran lead disaster response non-profit I volunteer for. Rubicon uses the skills of veterans to meet the needs of communities affected by disasters. Rubicon seeks to bridge the time gap between the disaster and when large scale or long term aid arrives. This work also helps veterans rediscover a sense of purpose, mission and belonging. For Hurricane Sandy, Team Rubicon quickly mobilized an all hands operation (Operation Greased Lightning) to meet the needs of the worst natural disaster to hit the North East in generations. What made the disaster worse in the area I deployed to was the nature of the affected communities. The area was tight knit, almost Mayberryish despite being part of Queens. Almost everyone's extended family lived in the same area and so they all suffered damaged. These people had no where to go. Once on the ground in Far Rockaways, I initially asked to put my search and rescue experience in using grid patterns to work by canvassing neighborhoods, making contact with residents to find those in need, doing damage assessments and generating work orders. Later on, I lead teams into ruined basements to quickly gut them to both combat the black mold that rapidly became endemic and so that the residents could get electricians and plumbers in to reconnect them to the grid. Thankfully I had my respirator with me. You could smell the mold from the street and many of the residents were already showing signs of upper respiratory problems from the mold. It was incredibly rewarding work. Each basement we gutted saved the resident somewhere between three and twenty-five thousands dollars that for hire services were charging. Rubicon did it for free. Also with winter breathing down our necks we were in a race to get basements gutted so that the lights and heat could be turned back on. In fact shortly after arriving, a Nor' Easter blew in and covered everything with snow as a start reminder of what the people of this area were facing. I ended up spending thirteen days on the ground there. Oh, I got to meet real heroes there as well. Not just fellow members of Rubicon, but FDNY firefighters. One of the neighborhoods we worked lost sixty people on 9-11. Having a retired captain who barely escaped the collapsing towers tell me thank you was humbling.