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U.S. veterans offer hands-on help in Philippines relief effort

Nov. 22, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Operation Damayan MWM 20131118
Brian Ginty, a former Air Force airman and current volunteer with Team Rubicon, gives a glow stick Monday to a young, displaced Filipino aboard a C-130 leaving Guiuan, Philippines, and heading to Villamor Air Base in Manila. Team Rubicon is a private organization of U.S. military veterans that assists in disaster relief operations. (Mike Morones/Staff)
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Volunteers with Team Rubicon gather their gear Monday at Villamor Air Base in Manila, Philippines, before heading on to Tacloban. (Mike Morones/Staff)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — While the active-duty U.S. military has been busy helping the people of the Philippines recover from Typhoon Haiyan, American veterans also have been wading in to help.

Members of Team Rubicon, for example, have been on the ground for the past week supplementing military relief efforts. Team Rubicon is an organization composed of veterans who continue to serve through disaster relief.

While most of their efforts are devoted to disaster relief in the U.S., they do deploy overseas on occasion to lend a hand.

“A very natural partnership [has] developed,” said Jacob Wood about working alongside Joint Task Force 505, the U.S. military response to the typhoon.

Wood, a former Marine who co-founded Team Rubicon and serves as its president, said an initial team of 18 members arrived in Tacloban a few days after the storm blew through.

In the initial aftermath, they began search-and-rescue efforts and provided some medical assistance. Now operating with about 43 members — and some 25 more on the way — the volunteers plan to fan out west from Tacloban to assess the needs of the local population.

“It’s about how to get people and supplies where they’re needed, when they’re needed, and that’s been really challenging so far,” Wood said, noting that the process has been occasionally hampered by miscommunication between organizations, inaccurate assessments of need and the low availability of flights from Villamor Air Base to stricken areas.

Wood said Team Rubicon will stay in the Philippines as long as it’s needed.

“We will continue to provide our assets to be tasked by [the U.S. military] as they see fit, and we’ll continue to do that until they don’t need us anymore.”

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