A native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, Lieutenant Colonel Ghislain Rancourt joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1982. As an air navigator, Lt. Col. Rancourt has over 3,800 hours flying on the CP 140 Aurora and CC 130 Hercules aircraft, with two deployments to Afghanistan. During his second tour, he served as strategic advisor to the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.
Prior to coming to U.S. Southern Command in 2016 as part of the Partner Nations Military Advisor (PNMA) program (also known as the Partner Nations Liaison Officer program), Lt. Col. Rancourt spent three years as the Canadian Liaison officer at Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Florida. He will be transitioning to his next assignment this summer at U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Diálogo: How important is it for Canada to participate in SOUTHCOM’s PNMA program?
Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Ghislain Rancourt, Partner Nation Military Advisor at SOUTHCOM: Canada has representation in all the combatant commands of the United States and for us to be at Southern Command is very important because we do a lot of development and work assistance in the Latin America and Caribbean region. It’s very important that we get together and we synchronize and see where we can collaborate in some areas. Me being here, facilitates this exchange.
Many people ask, why is Canada here at SOUTHCOM? I mean, you’re up north. You don’t have any Canadian islands in the area, as other countries do. As I mentioned earlier, that’s because we want to help the region, the Caribbean region. And that’s part of our neighborhood because there are a lot of diaspora from the Caribbean in Canada, and it only makes sense for us to be here to help them help themselves down the road.
Diálogo: SOUTHCOM has 11 officers currently in the liaison program. Why is it important for partner nations from the Western Hemisphere to be involved here?
Lt. Col. Rancourt: It gives us a better sense into some of the needs that some of our partners may have here. It’s a relationship that you build, and I can share my experience with them and how we do this. And I learn how they do this so that we can bring back perhaps some best practices that we never thought about.
Diálogo: What were your goals when you arrived at SOUTHCOM?
Lt. Col. Rancourt: One of them was to improve information sharing among allies and I think we’ve achieved that. Also getting better collaboration with allies and SOUTHCOM. My aim here, number one being increased information sharing, increased collaboration with SOUTHCOM in activities within the region to deconflict, collaborate, or keep out of each other’s way.
Diálogo: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected Canada and what role have the Armed Forces taken to help the civil authorities?
Lt. Col. Rancourt: Canada is a big country, the second largest country in the world, but with only 38 million people living in it. So there are a lot of remote communities all over the place. And we’re able to go in and assist in the transportation of some of the vulnerable to safer areas from those remote areas that we have up north. The other thing we did was to aid in the distribution of PPE [personal protective equipment].
As we move forward, we have Operation Vector, which is the distribution of the vaccine. We have a two star general who has been seconded to the public health agency of Canada. His role is to assist in the planning of distribution and logistics related to the distribution of vaccine.
Diálogo: As you transition to Northern Command, what are your lessons learned during your time here, and how do you hope to implement that in your new job?
Lt. Col. Rancourt: The lesson learned is everything that you gain from the relationships that you have. I think it’s very important to also be persistent. Don’t always take no as the first answer to a question that you may have, because deep down, you know that you want to get to yes. Just be persistent and be well educated in how you address a problem. It’s very nice to say, hey, there’s a big issue and we need to fix it. But bring a solution, try to bring ideas into making it better.
Essentially my lesson learned is to make sure you build good relationships. Every command is a little bit different. Every command has their own way of doing things that they feel comfortable doing. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo, because the status quo may not always be the easy button, but sometimes you need to push in order to get where you need to be.