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Veteran’s Way

During his tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jake Wood ’05 witnessed violence, death and destruction. But he also discovered a deep personal commitment to helping others.

Sandra Knisely '09, MA'13
November 10, 2014

Jake Wood uses his Marine training to give aid to troubled areas.

When former Badger lineman Jake Wood ’05 graduated from the UW, the United States was engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He joined the Marine Corps and served in both conflicts, earning the Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a V for valor in the face of the enemy.

During his tours of duty, Wood witnessed violence, death and destruction. But he also discovered a deep personal commitment to helping others. After his military service ended, Wood co-founded Team Rubicon with another former Marine to organize and deploy help to Haiti as swiftly and efficiently as possible in the aftermath of the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake. In 2011, WAA presented Wood with a Forward under 40 Award, and we thought it was time to check in to see what’s new with this up-and-coming alumnus.

What’s new with Team Rubicon? How has the organization’s work expanded or shifted since we last checked in with you in 2011?

The organization now has 26 employees and 16,000 members nationwide. We’ve run over 60 missions at home and around the world. We continue to grow and focus on training our members to be a more elite disaster-response organization, all the while providing our veteran volunteers with the purpose, community and sense of identity they are looking for after leaving the service.

Your first book, Take Command, is coming out this fall. What compelled you to write the book?

After Hurricane Sandy, I was approached by Crown Publishing to write a book on leadership and entrepreneurship from the perspective of a combat veteran and disaster first responder. Take Command is obviously the product of those discussions, and I’m really excited for it to come out in October. I think that the lessons contained inside are applicable to a wide range of people looking to maximize their chances of success in high-stakes situations.

In a recent article for LinkedIn, you discuss how to apply military decision-making approaches to business contexts. In two or three sentences, can you sum up your “shoot, move and communicate” philosophy?

The article really focuses on a leader’s need to balance the need to produce today versus plan for tomorrow, regardless of function or industry. Action and [continual] improvement are not mutually exclusive, but in order to maximize the impact, one has to master the art of communication — that’s the key.

So what’s next? What projects are on your horizon? Any plans to come back to Madison anytime soon?

I’m definitely coming back to Madison this fall, likely in October, for a game. Can’t stay away for too long! Right now I’m really focused on taking Team Rubicon to the next level and ensuring that my wife and I find a way to live in the same city. Oh, and I suppose I’d like to sell a million copies of Take Command.

Originally published July 21, 2014

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