It’s hard to know how to feel about being in a place like Abaco Island, Bahamas. For me, it was definitely a place of contrasts. From beautiful sunsets to total and complete destruction of everything. My plan was to be at ground zero on the first wave but I couldn’t make that happen, so instead I prepared myself to be on the second wave of volunteers. What set in quickly for me when I got on the ground was the realization that everything people have, can be taken in an instant, and there really isn’t anything you can do about it at the time.
When the second wave got on the ground, we built upon the excellent work done by our first wave. They established a FOB, for us to work from, and from there we moved out into the community of Marsh Harbour.. We began doing Rapid Damage Assessments, and creating work orders, doing route clearance work. We were fighting into the chaos, fighting to help create order out of disorder.
As a Strike Team leader, your watching your team, to make sure they are ok, eating, drinking, staying safe and working safely. So you sometimes look past your own discomfort to ensure your team is functional, and cared for. You try to be the first one up and that last one to shut it down at the end of the day. So it wasn’t until I got home after my deployment to Abaco that I started to process some of the things I saw and did. I did have a sense of guilt that I was no longer at the tip of the spear. I had a sense of guilt and futility when I went to a grocery store to buy supplies for a late Thanksgiving dinner I was going to have with my wife. I felt embarrassed that I was going to a store that had so much food, when I just left a place where they had literally nothing. I also had a feeling that the Mission was not complete and when was the earliest I could go back. I was not surprised at some of the feelings, but some caught me totally by surprise.
Upon reflection of my time on Abaco, one of the things that will stay with me for the rest of my life and that gives me the greatest sense of pride, is the fact that I was allowed to help lead an inspiring group of Canadians. Most of them had never been on a Deployment before let alone a deployment to a Cat. 5 Hurricane. I was humbled by their willingness to volunteer for difficult tasks, and their willingness to find solutions to difficult problems. It was their subdued determination, and a sense of purpose that made it an absolute pleasure to work with each and everyone of them. They are, what Team Rubicon Canada is all about.