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Disaster relief training acts as leadership lab

Cadets in Disaster TrainingCadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy listen to Team Rubicon instructors during chainsaw training in Larkspur, Colo. in March 2023. The training is part of an effort by cadets to develop a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief club at the Academy. (courtesy photo: Team Rubicon)   

By Blaire Brush
U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communications

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.-  Cadet 3rd Class Kevin Duong said he just felt like he wasn’t doing enough. Now he spends his free time organizing cadets, creating partnerships and learning new skills in hopes of establishing a new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief club at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Duong said he joined the Academy because of his strong desire to serve others.

“It’s the most rewarding work I ever do,” he said.

Duong wasn’t alone in his desire to help out in the community and he connected with more than two dozen interested cadets. The military and strategic studies major also reached out to disaster response organizations like the Red Cross and Team Rubicon to see if there were opportunities for cadets to assist in their work.

Team Rubicon, a veteran-led organization, jumped at the chance. Local Team Rubicon Chainsaw Cadre Leader Dave LaRivee, Class of 1980, helped arrange chainsaw training for about 20 cadets. Since getting certified in March those cadets have assisted with three fire mitigation projects in Colorado.

LaRivee, a former professor and vice commandant of the Academy, said the cadets are some of the best students they’ve had, listening, learning and applying the new skills quickly. He said beyond the skills the cadets acquire, the partnership with Team Rubicon is also a great way for cadets to develop leadership skills.

“We’re focused on leadership development at all levels,” said LaRivee, “The cadets will have team leadership opportunities where they will be working in a trust environment and receive instant feedback from experienced leaders. Our folks are good at giving feedback because it’s not about rating people, it’s about developing people.”

Duong said leadership development is a bonus to doing this work.

“The leadership aspect of disaster relief work, understanding how to lead during the chaos of a situation and to work as a team to help people, is exactly what we’re trying to do here at the Academy,” said Duong.  “This work will only help build our leadership and team skills and develop an effective and efficient force to accomplish a mission.“

Duong is also working with the Red Cross on projects that would include more cadets.  He said he’s hoping to get approval for the new club next fall.

Cadets in Disaster Training

Cadet group

Cadets with Team RubiconU.S. Air Force Academy cadets gather with Team Rubicon in Larkspur, Colo. in March 2023 for chainsaw training. (courtesy photos: Team Rubicon)