Comfort after chaos: Veteran-led Team Rubicon helping Afghan refugees settle into new life

FORT McCOY, Wis. — More than a dozen organizations are working with Fort McCoy to help support the Afghan refugees being housed at the military base.

Team Rubicon, a nonprofit comprised of nearly 150,000 military veterans, first responders and civilian volunteers is the lead organization working with authorities at Fort McCoy to help direct volunteers and donations to where they’re needed most. It was originally founded by former University of Wisconsin football player and Marine veteran Jake Wood.

“Team Rubicon is a volunteer lead veteran organization that basically leverages the skills of veterans, first responders and civilian volunteers to respond to disasters in the United States and around the world,” Jason Crowe said.

Crowe spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force working as a crew chief hauling cargo in the Middle East. He’s volunteered to serve with Team Rubicon at disasters around the world.

“I’ve never done a mission quite like this one,” Crowe said. “The community has come together to literally deliver tons of donations.”

There have been so many donations that Team Rubicon is storing them inside the National Guard Armory building in Sparta. “You really do see the excitement on their faces, especially the children when they hold little outfits up and smile. It’s been a very rewarding experience.”

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Team Rubicon was founded in response to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. Many traditional aid organizations were slow to establish relief efforts. Two U.S. Marines, Jake Wood and William McNutty decided to act. They gathered supplies and volunteers and deployed to Port-au-Prince in the days following the earthquake.

Crossing over the Artibonite River, the natural border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the small team of eight volunteers called themselves “Team Rubicon” in reference to the Rubicon River in Rome. By crossing their Rubicon, the team acknowledged they were committed to their task of helping those in need.

“In Team Rubicon, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from or what your beliefs are,” Crowe said. “When we see people in need, we are motivated to help.”

You do not have to be a member of the military to volunteer with Team Rubicon. A large percentage of the volunteers are civilians who have never served.

You can sign up at TeamRubiconUSA.org to volunteer at Fort McCoy or other missions. Team Rubicon is currently running refugee relief operations at seven installations around the United States.