I meet Carol and Curt on my first Team Rubicon deployment, I joined the team in January 2017 and a week later I had a call from the CEO asking if I would like to deploy, I said when, he said, the day after tomorrow.

Off I headed with a days notice to New Orleans to assist Team Rubicon US with a Tornado recovery operation, Who Dat. Carol was the second person I met when I arrived and I was impressed with her calm manner and very welcoming demeanour.

I met Curt a little later in the Op as he arrived to take over the role of Safety Chief for the Incident Management Team. Something that impressed me about Curt was how every morning he delivered the safety brief in a very structured way, ensuring all the important information was covered in a repeatable manner.

I use Curt’s safety brief as an example of how to deliver the perfect brief when I’m training incident managers:

“Hi, I’m Curt, from region 4, I’m your Safety Chief and here’s what you have to look out for today….”

When I was planning my Churchill Fellowship I was very keen to catch up with both Carol and Curt as they have been working as incident management and leadership mentors for Team Rubicon US for over 5 years.

Catching up with them however can be a little difficult, both travel across the country providing support and training to the growing TRUS incident management team, finding them at home is very rare.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Carol in her home town of Kansas City. For the first time ever Carol was supporting an Operation within driving range of home,

Me sporting a bling cap and glasses made by Carol.

Incident Management

 Carol McCoy is a military veteran who worked as a police officer after retiring from the military. Carol was one of the founding members of the Team Rubicon US on call Incident management team.

As TR Operations increased in size and complexity and the organisation adopted the National Incident Management System (NIMS) style of incident management the need for professional incident managers was identified. Carol’s police background prepared her perfectly for the role of Planning Chief trainer and mentor.

The Planning Chief is primarily responsible for the identification and management of people and work orders. Carol is a details and process person which makes her a planning expert, her easy manner ensures that team members respect and trust her.

When it comes to what does and doesn’t work in volunteer organisations Carol is an expert, with a combination military and police experience Carol knows what motivates people and what good and bad leadership looks like. It’s no surprise that when Carol talks about success operations she focuses on the people or “greyshirts” as we are known in Team Rubicon.

Volunteers turn up to help so they must be kept busy, they also like to know what’s going on so a well structured “Battle Rhythm”, a repeatable daily routine, is essential. The quality of work tasks is just as important as the quantity, “greyshirts” don’t mind doing the most dirty and menial tasks if they can see that the work is helping those most in need. Finding work, and triaging it to ensure support is going to those most in need is the role of planning and if this is not done well then morale drops.

Understanding and explaining the Incident Management and by extension Team Rubicon operations is Carol’s superpower. I have done at least 4 incident management courses, over 4 days each with thousands of powerpoint slides, I learned more from Carol in a morning over a cup of coffee.

Over time I have put Carol’s lessons into practice and have found they are repeatable and easy to teach. Carol’s approach to teaching is an example of the fundamental Team Rubicon principles I discussed with Jake wood, if people understand the why and you empower them to trust themselves, they will make good decisions.

Carol’s approach to imparting knowledge and empowering people makes her the perfect mentor. Both Carol and Curt agree that it is far easier to start an operation right than try to get it back into shape, setting a standard and implementing a routine are essential. Interestedly this also applies to firefightering incident management, what happens in the first 20 minutes of a structural fire sets the scene for the next few hours.

Calm Professionalism 

My operational experience with Curt was slightly different, while I got to know Carol as I leaned basic TR incident management, I watched Curt in action. He projected a sense of calm professionalism, he was very approachable and understood that it was his job to get everyone thinking about safety with making it look like a sermon. Curt did this amazingly well. 

While Curt was the Safety Chief on Op Who Dat in New Orleans he has a strong background in all aspects of incident management.

Curt learned his skills on submarines, my Navy readers will know that makes Curt special, while submariners think special is like special forces, most of know that just means different.

I have amazing respect for submariners as they do a job that would scare the hell out of most of us, being underwater for months, that means not seeing the Sun for weeks at time.

Some would say that’s, crazy, others brave but I just think it’s “special”.  Submarines are one of the most safety critical workplaces in the world, there is only the tiniest margin for error.

Curt also honed his logistics skills underwater, ensuring you have everything you need and squeezing it into a limited space takes logistics genus.

As well as an incident management mentor Curt, like Carol, sees himself as a custodian of Team Rubicon’s values. Curt ensures that TR values are maintained by demonstration through example and educating and empowering all greyshirts to uphold these values.

A simple part of Curt’s incident management process that I will be using in the future is to clearly outline what is expected from each member of an incident management team. Knowing what is and isn’t your responsibly can be very liberating. This process is finalised when individual feedback is provided to all team members.

When it came to what they liked about Team Rubicon Curt and Carol both agreed that they enjoyed working with like minded people with can do attitudes, they both acknowledged the value of a flat, dynamic leadership model and how there is very little ego involved.

Curt appreciated that everyone was encouraged and set up to achieve their best. He also sees the value of forced socialisation when a group of like minded people are gathered together to achieve a common goal.

These shared experiences form positive bonds that in some cases lead to lifelong relationships.