From the couch to the center of suffering, from California to Haiti in about three days, the plan was to hit the ground running and not look back.
That is what a former Bettendorf man and a team of ex-military men did, arriving Sunday in Haiti to provide medical treatment, moving fast and light, as opposed to larger aid organizations.
Jake Wood, 26, who played football at Pleasant Valley High School and the University of Wisconsin, joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation. Trained as a sniper and scout, he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before getting out in October. Living in the Los Angeles area, he was waiting to hear back from colleges regarding MBA programs when the earthquake struck Haiti.
“Jake was sitting on the couch when he heard about the quake and thought he had to do something,” his father, Jeff Wood, of Bettendorf, said. “Less than three days later, they’re in Santo Domingo, headed to Haiti.”
Jake Wood took the lead and organized a group of about 15 responders.
Dubbed “Team Rubicon,” the group has since created another unit in Haiti, and a third is expected to leave for the island nation later this week, totaling about 50 members. According to various sources, to cross the Rubicon, as Julius Caesar did in challenging the Roman Senate, is to make a decision that cannot be changed.
The first group, with Jake Wood, flew into the Dominican Republic capital, Santo Domingo, then drove to Port-au-Prince. Jake Wood recruited doctors who were traveling to the shattered Haitian capital without any affiliation. He found the doctors on the airplane flying to Santo Domingo and in the airport.
His parents, Jeff and Chris Wood, are updating the team’s Web site. Jeff Wood is shocked and amazed at the work they are doing and the suffering they are trying to ease.
“They are going where no one else is going,” he said. “They are dealing with six- and seven-day-old wounds.”
Donations as small as $5 and as big as $10,000 have been made to Team Rubicon. It just filed its nonprofit paperwork, thanks to a Minnesota lawyer who did the work pro bono. A 20-physician surgical practice from California has offered to rotate a surgeon to the team every 10 days until they are no longer needed, said Gary Kagle, who is serving as Team Rubicon’s medical logistics officer.
Former military personnel stepped up to provide people, supplies and money, all very quickly, said Kagle, who lives near Washington, D.C. Most of the volunteers on Team Rubicon are former military as well.
“I’m a retired soldier who has done lots of deployments,” the former medical officer said. “This one ranks right up there as one of the most intense deployments I’ve ever had.
“I know the military and the special operations world, and I know the quality of people involved. We have a need and an identified mission. People are putting their lives on hold to accomplish the mission.”
The team has a Web site that was Jake Wood’s military blog. It was running out of steam since he left the military, Wood admitted in his last post of 2009, dated in October. It has found new life. Team members are e-mailing text, photographs and video that Jeff Wood posts. The blog was getting 500 hits a day on Saturday, but by Wednesday, it had grown to 5,000 hits a day.
The Web site has a PayPal link for donations.