Team Rubicon comes to the rescue.

September 5, 2018

Team Rubicon comes to the rescue.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

PENTWATER — When disaster strikes, Team Rubicon swoops in.

The organization, comprised mainly of military veterans and emergency responders, provides volunteer disaster relief to people affected by natural disasters across the world.

Last week’s fast-moving thunderstorm took its toll on the the small Village of Pentwater. Trees were snapped like twigs, and many trees were uprooted by the wild winds. The crashing trees knocked down power lines everywhere.

The entire village was without power following the storm, and some residents in outlying areas remain without electricity.

related story here

Pentwater resident and Rubicon Team member Ben Wisenbaugh immediately saw the need for help in his village as he witnessed the storm firsthand with his kids that evening. “Four or five trees went down right next to my house,” he said. When he drove into town, the destruction was overwhelming.

It almost looked like a war zone immediately following the wild storm. A US Army veteran, Wisenbaugh knows all too well the destruction that war leaves in its path. He was deployed three times to Iraq and earned a Purple Heart during his second deployment. He suffered a traumatic brain injury when his squad’s truck hit an IED (improvised explosive device) in Ar Ramadi in 2006.

Wisenbaugh was knocked out cold from the blast and permanently lost most of the hearing in his right ear. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the trauma.

Also known as “Big Ben,” the tall soldier does not let his injuries stand in the way of helping others. The same is true for his fellow military vets and citizens involved in Team Rubicon. This past week, they’ve been putting in long days to help the residents of Pentwater. Their biggest mission has been clearing trees from residential property, particularly for those who are most in need of the help. They have been focused on helping elderly and disabled people, as well as those who may not have the financial resources to do it themselves.

In addition to helping others, a huge benefit of Team Rubicon is that it also helps the veterans find a sense of purpose after their military service has ended.

“We take care of each other as much as we take care of other people,” Wisenbaugh said.

Incident Commander Jay Scott of Grand Rapids, who is also a military veteran, said, “I had friends involved in Team Rubicon, and it’s something that really spoke to me. It gives you a sense of mission and purpose after you leave the service.”

Fortunately, the organization has been experiencing rapid membership growth, Scott said. “It has more than doubled in size in the past year,” he said. Following the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico last year, membership has skyrocketed. “Without that growth, we would not have had the opportunity to come to this small community. There was no one else to respond.”

There are still Rubicon teams in the hurricane-ravaged areas, said Wisenbaugh working through “Operation Continuing Promise.”

Team Rubicon has 90,000 members nationwide, and it is always accepting new members. Pentwater resident and business owner Greg Lopus just joined the group and has been working alongside the other Rubicon workers this week in his hometown.

Those who are non-military are nicknamed “Kickass Civilians,” and Lopus fits in that category. “These guys are brutes,” said the Cosmic Candy store owner of his teammates.

The organization works closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the volunteers train with FEMA, Wisenbaugh said.

Team Rubicon is always accepting more volunteer workers, Wisenbaugh said. “We take any age, any ability level. Anyone with a willingness to help is accepted.

“It takes a certain person to do this for free,” he said. “They’re away from their families and traveling all over the country.” Wisenbaugh said he is fortunate for the outstanding support that his wife Jennifer and their three kids offer for his Rubicon missions.

The Pentwater community has shown its gratitude to the volunteer workers by providing meals for them. The Pentwater Service Club has been providing their breakfasts and lunches, and other community members and organizations have stepped in to make their dinners, said PCS Vice President Claudia Ressel-Hodan.

At its peak of operation in Pentwater, Team Rubicon had 16 volunteer workers in town. Several are from other states, such as Indiana and Ohio. The Pentwater Friendship Center offered up its building, which served as the Forward Operating Base (FOB). The workers have been sleeping on cots provided by the American Red Cross inside the center. The Pentwater Fire Barn next door has kept its doors open to the Rubicon team, so they can take showers there. The Pentwater Muncipal Marina and the Charles Mears State Park have also offered their shower facilities for the workers, Scott said.

“The community has been so great,” said Wisenbaugh. “This is the cheapest operation I’ve ever been on, because all of the meals have been provided.”

“I’m really proud of my community,” said Lopus. “They’re showing high-class appreciation.”

“The community has supported us so well by feeding us,” said Scott. “They’re showing us the love.”

“Service above self is the driving force behind all of Team Rubicon’s operational activity,” states its web site. “Our actions are characterized by the constant pursuit to prevent or alleviate human suffering and restore human dignity – we help people on their worst day.”

Many Rubicon members who are still in the work force use their vacation days to respond to disasters and help others. “Some of them will take the day off of work and drive 200 miles to help,” Wisenbaugh said.

The team in Pentwater has spent almost a week helping 15 homeowners.

“They did an awesome job,” said Elaine Curtis, whose property was pummeled by 15 enormous fallen trees.

Wisenbaugh is grateful that the opportunity for Team Rubicon to help Pentwater came into fruition. “Pentwater is like my family, and Team Rubicon is another part of my family. It’s nice that they met.”

To learn about volunteering with Team Rubicon or to donate to the organization, visit

This story is copyrighted © 2018, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.


Eats & Drinks

Eats & Drinks

Area Churches