Occupation in Perspective: Lt Dan Bouchard, AERE

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Magazine Article / August 10, 2021

Originally from Chicoutimi, Quebec, Lieutenant Daniel Bouchard joined the Canadian Armed Forces as an Avionics Technician (AVS Tech) in August 2005. Upon completion of his training, he joined the Air Mobility Community and was posted to 8 Air Maintenance Squadron at 8 Wing in Trenton, Ontario, where he served in several operational, staff, and technical positions. Operational highlights include working with the search and rescue community as a 424 Squadron “Tiger”, deploying on Operation Impact in 2016 as an RCAF intelligence mission data analyst, and conducting escort duty for the Governor-General during an official visit to Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands in 2014. In 2020 he successfully applied for the Commissioning from the Ranks (CFR) program and, having recently completed his occupation training as an Aerospace Engineering (AERE) Officer, he now is posted to the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Modernization Project Office at National Defence Headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec, as a Software and Cyber Security Specialist.

Lt Bouchard, your career has been all about air maintenance. What attracted you to that field in the first place?

My life circumstances built up an interest in technically-oriented work. As a teenager in the ’80s, I was lucky to have access to the latest computers as my mother was working for Apple; programming was a game and to see results was highly rewarding. I also started doing mechanical work on everything that could be repaired, optimized, or upgraded, including model aircraft. For me, military aircraft are the ultimate toy to work on, as they break, show wear, and need upgrades to sustain operations. Being a kid in Chicoutimi, those RCAF fighters were flying over my head every day, and every time the display of airpower increased my heart rate and pride to be Canadian. If you combine all the above, it can explain why I enjoy every single day as an aviator in the RCAF.

You’ve had an interesting career as an AVS Tech; why go for the commission and become an officer?

Since I joined the military, everything has been an opportunity; all roles have been exciting and rewarding in some way because of the people surrounding me. Becoming an officer was not a career goal, but I have always been an advocate of our strong capability as an institution to provide clear processes to follow, evolve from lessons learned, and adapt to situations that seem impossible. When serving, it is not about yourself anymore, and empowering the team should be every CAF member’s focus.

One of the CAF’s core values is highlighting the critical role of one leader to empower many others. I served with outstanding technicians and supervisors during the last 16 years and my ‘leadership’ focus will be to deliver comprehensive and efficient processes that enable them in their critical tasks to allow us to maintain airworthy airpower capabilities with the assets available. One day, I will be back as a section leader, and again, it is going to be people first, because without people, there is no mission! It is the CAF members that enable us to deliver airpower capabilities, not the individual officer in their office.

What did you find particularly interesting about working as an air maintenance technician?

Performing aviation maintenance as an avionics technician was a hands-on career but what I enjoyed particularly was the fact that you had to think outside the box quite often to resolve technical issues, AVS technicians are not only box changers. Performing maintenance, inspections, and repairs to aircraft using a variety of tools and equipment, researching the system interactions with other systems, and interacting with the technical advisors was rewarding, particularly when you resolve a challenging issue. It sure was not boring working in an environment that requires mental and physical work. As an aircraft avionics technician, the work you do is what keeps the skies safe ─maintaining detection, communication, and navigation systems─ and we must be proud of it!

Is there some aspect of first being a technician that might help you as an AERE Officer?

The exposure I had to technical publications, standards, and the RCAF qualifications system while serving as an aircraft maintainer prepared me to face my day-to-day mandate as an AERE officer, and to sustain airworthiness with a mission-focused vision. The aspect that cannot be ignored during my service as an aircraft maintainer is the strong mentoring I received while supervising aircraft maintenance. Aircraft maintenance teams have different skill sets, and you optimize work progression by idealizing concurrent activities management, which will be a key skill as an AERE Officer as you rely on your subordinates and peers for their expertise. The knowledge acquired during my time as a weapon system releaser at 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron has been instrumental, and the mentoring I received from subordinates and supervisors changed my perspective on how we can keep the tires on the ramp safely, and all the while with a smile on our faces. One of my corporals told me one day, “Sergeant, this is a dynamic situation, we must stay fluid,” and what I learned that day was that in life you can succeed or fail in any situation; the outcome is in your hands depending on your actions or reactions.

It must be very satisfying to be employed in such a key role in helping to maintain RCAF readiness – can you tell us a bit about that?

I had the chance when I was employed in the 8 Air Maintenance Squadron Employment and Training organization to work with the A4 Maintenance Monitor Mass - Electronic Technical Authorization Record Set (ETARS) implementation team. Through the ETARS, Monitor Mass can display the state of readiness at any level ─at the division, the wings, units, etc.─ for aircraft maintenance core competencies in a few clicks. Individual Battle Task Standards and taskings readiness are tailored based on the unit battle rhythm requirements, but the Air Force Readiness is about our capability to maintain our flying assets for any mission and under any condition. I found the experience of contributing to the development of an IT tool that will fulfill the need to analyze our readiness and capabilities as a team to be very satisfying.

How do you balance work with your personal life? Do you have any particular hobbies, or participate in any sports? 

First of all, in general, I try to have a social circle outside of work that is not related to work. I am a family person and have been with my partner in life for 24 years, and spending time with my spouse and two kids is what I enjoy the most. Activities we enjoy the most are playing music, playing in the water with my jet boat, and riding machines that can go fast and furious on trails! I am not the most athletic person, but I am not a person that can sit for too long, either. Golfing and playing volleyball is what I like the most when it comes to sports.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

As a life philosophy, I try to smile, not always easy, particularly when facing adversity ─or with a face mask!─ but, we all know that with a positive attitude come positive outcomes. Help others; it makes you feel great, and try to be a leader, not a drag, in all aspects of your life!

Did You Know?

Aerospace Engineering Officers are responsible for all aspects of the engineering, maintenance and management of military aircraft; and all of their support equipment and facilities during military operations. The responsibilities of the Aerospace Engineering Officer are to:

  • Manage and supervise the personnel and resources required for the servicing, inspection and repair of aircraft
  • Oversee designing, developing and testing new systems and modifying existing ones or for conducting the life cycle management of aircraft and air weapon systems
  • Participate in the formulation of plans, policies, standards and specifications for present and future military aircraft and their support equipment and facilities
  • Provide technical advice on aircraft operation.
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