Vanguard Magazine

Vanguard October/November 2022

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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GAME CHANGER 40 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2022 See the full interview online Q How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you to where you are today? I joined the British Army in 1989, trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was there when the Ber- lin Wall came down. At first, I wondered whether I had just joined an organiza- tion that was about to become obsolete but by the time I graduated from Sand- hurst in 1990, Saddam Hussein had invaded Iraq and the British Army was embarking upon a very busy period of operations that endured throughout my career. As an infantry officer who rotated in and out of staff jobs, I found myself on operations in virtually every job from Northern Ireland to Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In 2012, I came to Canada to command the British Army Training Unit in Suf- field (BATUS) for a 3 year tour. BATUS was a great experience professionally but also an opportunity for my family to see Canada. After a year my wife told me that she thought that I should leave the Army and we should stay in Canada - I was more than happy to agree! I left the Army after a final tour in Afghanistan in 2016 where I ended up commanding a US Task Force in Gardez and joined ATCO in 2017. My military experience prepared me very well for my current role; not just because it equipped me with leadership skills, an understanding of how to run large organizations, but also because I learned a lot about logistics and how to support remote teams in austere loca- tions. I lived in a lot of camps around the world that were not very different from the workforce housing camps that ATCO Frontec runs today. Although I would say that our camps are rather more luxurious than the military ones! Q What is your role at your organization today? I run Frontec, the Operational Support Services division of ATCO. We are a di- versified company both in terms of what we do, but also the clients we serve and the geographies in which we operate. We do everything from operations and main- tenance of military equipment to fuel ser- vices, running workforce housing camps to infrastructure and technical support for government, military, and commer- cial clients. We operate coast to coast to coast in North America, in the US and in Europe. We played a significant role in running the NATO airfield in Kandahar. We specialize in operating in remote and austere environments with a lot of opera- tions in the Canadian Arctic. My role also entails developing and nurturing long-standing business re- lationships with Indigenous peoples. The founder of ATCO, RD Southern, was decades ahead of his time in under- standing the justice, fairness, and value of such relationships. We are fortunate to be able to continue these and many of Frontec's longest running operations, both in Canada and in the US, are joint ventures or corporations where we are the minority shareholder. Nasittuq Cor- poration, recently awarded the $592M contract for the Operation and Mainte- nance of the North Warning System, is one such corporation. Nasittuq previ- ously operated the NWS from 2001 to 2014 and we are very happy to see the contract come home to an Inuit majority owned business. We believe this kind of partnership represents the future of de- velopment in the North. Q What was your most challenging moment? The death of a close colleague and friend in a non-operational environment when I was a Commanding Officer. Although we prepare for deaths on operations, if it hap- pens at home, it can be a huge shock. My Adjutant was killed in a road traffic acci- dent cycling home one night. The sudden and tragic nature of it hit me hard and I struggled to work out how to deal with that for his family, his friends, the Battal- ion and myself. Q What was your A-HA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader? When I left the Army and joined ATCO, I was optimistic (but not totally confident) that my leadership, planning and other professional skills would transfer to the ci- vilian world. I was happy to discover after a year that, although I certainly had new skills to learn, my core skills were indeed transferable. People are people, in or out of uniform, and they respond to good (or bad) leadership in broadly similar ways. However, I still find myself explaining to many civilian colleagues that the movie stereotype of the red-faced shouting mili- tary leader is not the reality of how profes- sional military leaders operate these days. Q What is a habit that contributes to your success? I am a planner by nature. I fully rec- ognize no plan survives contact with the enemy, or reality, but the process of plan- ning is invaluable. I tend to make plans for whatever I am doing professionally or personally and find this helps me to think through what my goals are, the options to reach them and the ability to adjust my actions when the situation changes. This habit was particularly valuable during the pandemic when I worked with my team to anticipate the way COVID would spread globally, to make early plans to work re- motely so we had time to rehearse them and then implement them without a hitch a week later. Other organizations may have struggled but we didn't miss a beat – anticipation, planning and preparation all paid off. JIM LANDON PRESIDENT ATCO FRONTEC

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