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Team Rubicon deploys to Traverse City

David Cassleman

Parts of northern Michigan are still recovering from a violent storm that hit earlier this month. County workers and residents are cleaning up.  

Now, a national emergency response group has deployed to Grand Traverse County to help – and they’re about more than just disaster relief.

Patrick Smith is part of Team Rubicon.

“I’m a disabled Marine,” he says. “So it’s like a full-time job for me. I treat it as a full-time job.”

Team Rubicon is a national organization made up of about 30,000 veterans. They respond to emergencies with the kind of skills that are really useful in these situations.

There are about two dozen volunteers right now in northern Michigan. Smith is here from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is working at an operations base at Twin Lakes Park, west of Traverse City.

“What I’ve been doing is inventory,” he says, “making sure the teams have their gear and things they need out in the field.”

Team Rubicon started when two Marines helped in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Smith’s first operation was after Hurricane Sandy.

The job in Grand Traverse County is mostly trimming trees, and also communicating to people that help is here.

Jim Simmons leads the operation and says in addition to disaster relief Team Rubicon is about empowering people when they get out of the military. Simmons says that’s when veterans can lose some of the sense of purpose they felt during service.

“Team Rubicon seeks to address that and help veterans revisit a sense of mission,” he says.

Simmons says the operation in Grand Traverse County could go for a couple weeks.