Ken Harbaugh is a former Navy pilot and disaster-responder. He flew reconnaissance missions in the Middle East and off of North Korea. Ken is the past President of Team Rubicon Global, a disaster relief organization that has helped train over 50,000 veterans to deploy in emergency response teams around the world. Together with his wife, Ken is the author of Here Be Dragons: A Parent’s Guide to Rediscovering Purpose, Adventure, and the Unfathomable Joy of the Journey, a book about raising brave and service-minded children. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and the Yale Journal of International Law. Ken is running for Congress to represent Ohio’s 7 th District.
In the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I led a Combat Reconnaissance Aircrew in an intelligence collection mission against North Korea. Before takeoff, I briefed my crew. “Keep your guard up,” I said. “We are facing an enemy that is still at war with the United States. They may think America is vulnerable right now, but that is why we are here. Treat every decision like your life depends on it.”
Too often, I encounter veterans who believe their best days are behind them. My first week working for Team Rubicon turned that notion on its head. It is a rare thing to be surrounded every day by people you admire. That is the position I found myself in late in 2013, shortly after accepting the job as chief operations officer for Team Rubicon, an organization that retrains military vets to deploy into disaster zones. This was a tiny team with big plans. When they said they intended to change the world, they — we — meant it.