Finding Purpose in a Grey Shirt

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Army veteran Elaine Gallagher says volunteering with Team Rubicon Australia at the Invictus Games in Sydney was rewarding, empowering and an ultimately healing experience.

Team Rubicon
Regardless of their background, I believe everyone can benefit from volunteer work. This is especially true for veterans transitioning back to civilian life. My convictions were reinforced when I volunteered at the Invictus Games in Sydney with Team Rubicon Australia (TRA).

TRA’s primary mission is to provide disaster relief to those affected by natural disasters, both domestically and internationally. By pairing the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders, medical professionals and technology solutions, TRA aims to provide the greatest service and impact possible.

Sixty-five members volunteered at the Invictus Games in positions ranging from team leader to packing and distributing uniforms. The Games were more than just a sporting competition. For the more than 500 wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women from 18 nations who participated, they were a celebration.


Team Rubicon was founded by former US Marine Corps veterans William McNulty and Jacob Wood in January 2010. In 2015, the first Australian chapter was formed.

TRA members are affectionately known as ‘greyshirts’. Since becoming a greyshirt, I have formed new friendships, strengthened existing relationships and generally met wonderful, like-minded people.

A one-size-fits-all approach to trauma healing does not work. More options are needed, and each individual must be empowered to find their own path to healing and recovery.

Volunteering with TR provides these options. It strengthens your ties to the community, broadens your support network, enables access to community resources and exposes you to people with common interests.


For Joanne Cornelius, who joined the Army as a 16-year-old apprentice in 1987, transitioning out of the Army in 1995 as a mechanic was difficult; trying to find a ‘civvy’ job and reintegrating into civilian life was challenging. After nine years of service and camaraderie, she lost contact with her Army family.

Joanne attributes her eventual success in her career today to the values of teamwork, initiative and mateship that Defence instilled in her at a young age. She recently joined TRA, and since becoming part of the ‘Tribe’, volunteering has allowed her to again work with people with these same values.

“Volunteering is so rewarding. I have been looking for something that has been missing – the common value that all veterans find difficult in ‘civvy’ land – working for a cause greater than ourselves,” Joanne said. “Volunteering with Team Rubicon Australia during the Invictus Games has provided me with the opportunity to be a part of a team of like-minded people.”


The success of any volunteer organisation relies on its ability to attract and retain dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. Individuals who commit their time and effort to volunteer projects do so for a wide variety of reasons.

Volunteering with TRA is a more profound interaction than merely volunteering. It is a new mission, and having a sense of community decreases veteran isolation, which can be a gateway to the multitude of issues veterans experience.

Veteran and civilian volunteers participate shoulder-to-shoulder. This simple interaction elicits stories and commonalities, which make us feel part of something valuable.

Our organisation is just getting started, and we would love more ADF veterans, emergency responders and motivated civilians to join our team. You will have the opportunity to learn, train and deploy with colleagues and make a real impact for communities in need.


Elaine Gallagher served with the Australian Army for 13 years, starting her career in the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps before transferring to Australia Army Intelligence Corps. She is currently a Welfare and Pensions Officer/Advocate at Sherwood-Indooroopilly Sub Branch and the Associate Coordinator for the Brisbane Disaster Response Team (DRT) with Team Rubicon Australia.


Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. If you’re interested in joining the team, find out more via: