Afghanistan hero refines war arts into business survival skills
Patrick Tower figures his timing might be right as he launches a new firm, Tactical Synergy Group, into the economic wreckage of the worst world financial crisis since the 1930s Great Depression. “It’s not a battlefield. But it’s pretty close,” the Canadian Forces warrant officer observes.
The combat veteran’s foray into business follows a 16-year career that measured performance in lives lost or saved. The stock in trade of his training and consulting firm is a military leadership code adapted for civilian enterprise where the yardstick is livelihoods preserved or ruined.
“There’s no better city in Canada to try this than in Calgary. If this doesn’t work here, it won’t work anywhere,” Tower says in the mess at Calgary’s Mewata Armory, where his day job is training reserve troops.
Officially there is no better man for the job of instilling the best army practices into business organizations. He is a decorated hero of Canadian military operations in Afghanistan.
Tower is the first recipient of the Star of Military Valour, which is second only to the Victoria Cross for gallantry in battle. He won the medal – and a place in two books, Fifteen Days by Christie Blatchford and Contact Charlie by Chris Wattie – for stellar combat leadership as a sergeant under intense fire by the Taliban in the Pashmul area of southern Afghanistan. He rescued wounded troops. He took over command of a platoon whose senior leaders were hit. He led the survivors out from under a hail of machine gun bullets and rocket-propelled grenades that killed four soldiers.
Tactical Synergy Group is meant to be a transition to a civilian career for a 36-year-old family man who has done his duty as a sweating gunfighter humping around 30 kilograms of battle gear. “In Afghanistan, the saying was that even a day when no one’s trying to shoot you is a hard day,” Tower recalls. The Taliban might take breaks but not the 50 C heat, sand fleas, snakes and biting camel spiders with fist-sized bodies and legs that can straddle pie plates.
Calgary is a potentially ripe market for advice by a professional survivor of nightmare conditions. The western business capital is full of stressed leaders feeling ambushed by a historically unique coincidence of simultaneously fallen energy prices, shaken stock and credit markets, irritable shareholders, aggressive environmental critics, resisting communities and disappointing royalty and tax policies.
Tower sees resemblances to the military in the oil industry’s blend of heavy equipment, rugged outdoor work, remote operations and skill with hazardous tools and products. As in the oilfields, “technology now dominates the battlefields. We train 21-year-olds to fire computer-guided rockets,” says Tower.
“The military invests heavily in the people that run the equipment. We still have people who operate all the tools. They are the force multiplier. If you have two sides with the same technology, the force with better operators will have the edge.”
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