Charles Dalcourt: 'Every NATO member is important. Cooperative defense of our values is existential' |

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Charles Dalcourt: 'Every NATO member is important. Cooperative defense of our values is existential'

Charles Dalcourt: 'Every NATO member is important. Cooperative defense of our values is existential'

Charles Dalcourt served as an American soldier in Germany during the Cold War. His teachers were experienced American soldiers from Vietnam. He can also explain why Americans, unlike other nations, are so proud of their veterans. Charles Dalcourt, head of the US branch of CSG (Czechoslovak Group), attended Globsec in Bratislava.

When did you decide to become soldier? Was it your childhood´s wish or dream?

Unlike some, my desire to serve wasn’t rooted in a childhood dream or desire. I decided to enter the military while in my senior year of high school for two reasons: I wanted to exit the environment in which I was raised and experience something different; and second, to open other doors or have greater opportunities to achieve success – to be all I could be. I enlisted in the U.S. Army’s delayed entry program while a senior in high school and at the age of seventeen. Upon graduation, I immediately left for training then my first assignment in Bamberg, Germany, where I served as a supply specialist.

Charles Dalcourt
Charles Dalcourt is CEO of CSG USA, the US subsidiary of the Czechoslovak Group. Charles served for 34 years in the U.S. Army being promoted from a Private to a full Colonel. He served as a helicopter pilot flying the UH-1 Iroquois, AH-1 Cobra, OH-58 Kiowa and the AH-64 Apache. He is a combat veteran who spent part of his career in Germany, South Korea, Iraq and several other countries throughout the Middle East. He likes literature and art and one of his hobbies is writing poetry. He is married and has four children.

It had to be huge change for you…

Yes, both the exposure and new experiences were incredible. I’d come from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to a European city with a flourishing culture. I was astonished by the kindness of people and their relationship to art and literature.

I was also serving in the middle of the Cold War. Our Army was still rebounding from the Vietnam experience. I served under leaders, veterans of the Vietnam War that were tough yet caring. I matured rapidly and the Army helped shape, very quickly, my perspective towards what I could and wanted to achieve. I also gained even greater respect for what the U.S. Army does and became dedicated to its mission. It was during this initial tour of service in Germany that I decided I wanted to be a career U.S. Army officer.

I developed a plan, began pursuing a commission, and as life gets a vote, my plans were altered by the death of my father. I had to return home and take care of my mother. I left active duty, joined the active reserves, and enrolled in college. My time at the University included studying for my B.S. degree, being in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), and working three jobs. After three years, I was commissioned as an officer.

Can you summarize the experience and achievements in your career of the U.S. Army officer?

I was blessed to become an Army aviator, to fly various types of helicopters and lead significant aviation projects in my career. I was also honored to serve in several non-aviation related positions that were incredibly rewarding. I spent my career not only in the U.S., but in many locations worldwide: in Germany, South Korea, Iraq and several other countries throughout the Middle East. Throughout my Army career, I have served and led in organizations with thousands of personnel and managed budgets in the hundreds of millions.

I interacted with hundreds of thousands of people. Many of these were superficial encounters yet many resulted in deep professional relationships. I also learned the importance of team effort, mutual support of team members, and the power and impact of placing the mission of the organization and the needs of others first.

Being part of an organization that demands excellence, you learn how to accomplish any and all tasks despite the challenges, changes, failures, or setbacks you encounter. You focus on the desired end state and follow the vision. You change your plans according to developing circumstances and embrace forks in the road. You figure out that individuals don’t win herculean battles, teams do.

How did these lessons from military apply to your current job of the CEO of the US subsidiary of the Czech industrial group CSG?

They are very applicable. CSG is a developing organization that must adapt quickly to survive and thrive. Teaming will be integral to CSG’s success. We will be successful. I see the same toughness and focus in the eyes of many people in CSG that I saw in those serving alongside me in the military.

You speak greatly about U.S. Army which is natural for you as the American and veteran but for some, fortunately not many people in Europe or the Czech Republic US army is the negative symbol on US power, which is not always used wisely. What would you say to them?

Most people are not exposed to what the U.S. Army really does. One must also discern the difference between politics, diplomacy and military. The main mission of the U.S. Army is to fight and win but before that, it seeks to prevent conflict through presence or the projection of power. The Army works closely alongside US diplomats to avoid war. But for prevention to work, it must always be ready to fight and use force.

The mentality of the U.S. Soldier is to fight, win, and if required to even die for her country. Soldiers know the true cost of war better than most and as such, does their best to avoid it. The U.S. Army dedicates great effort into international security cooperation, training of foreign armed forces, and conflict prevention. There is nothing perfect in any endeavor that involves people. Even when war appears inevitable, there are many in the military working with our civilian leaders very closely to avoid war.

It is true that current view of the USA by many people is influenced by their negative relationship towards Donald Trump…

First, I think very few across the globe have a “relationship” with President Trump. They develop a perspective from what they glean from other’s reports. I agree that today, the view of the USA could be strongly influenced by one’s perspective of our politicians. If filtered through rhetoric and not research, those negative perspectives may be unfounded. Politics is a different business where personal egos often come into play.

In judging the USA, one must not be influenced only by the current rhetoric of today´s political pundits but should look at the whole record, the legacy of the USA viewed over both a longer period of time and broader scope. When you look at the role the USA and the U.S. Army played in Europe in the World Wars or during the Cold War, the cooperation and collaboration with Europe across many facets of global affairs, the record is highly positive.

What do you think is the relationship of the U.S. military to the current White House administration?

The relationship is no different than with any other elected, emplaced, and empowered administration of the past – positive, respectful, and loyal. In the USA, the military absolutely and readily subjects itself to the will and leadership of our civilian leaders…their authority. We are not a country wherein the military aspires to have political power or subvert the authority of duly elected people. Of course, some decisions are neither popular nor profitable; all directives aren’t welcomed by everyone. However, there is inborn respect for civilian authority and the tremendous challenge our leaders face on the world stage.

Some extremists here in the CR claim that the CR should leave NATO and that the alliance with the USA, superpower on the other side of the Atlantic acting often in self-interest makes no sense. What would you say to this?

I do not share this perspective in any way and consider them not based on the actual performance of either the USA or NATO countries. I would question the true motivation of those who claim this and if their opinions are really based on a desire to foster long-term goodwill for their countries. The military and political alliance between the USA and European states within NATO is extremely important and should not be viewed through the lenses of current political rhetoric. The political, economic, and military power of all these countries, the Alliance, is incredible and despite short term differences in politics and some policies, this link fostered by NATO should be minimally maintained and optimally strengthened. In earnest, our nations share the same view on democracy, freedom and free enterprise. Those views are challenged daily and the cooperative defense of our values and views is existential.

I don´t like when someone makes tough comments without solid factual backing. As a leader, I always seek the truth…to seek an objective analysis of the facts. The positive impact and effects of the symbiotic relationship between the USA and Europe is indisputable. I believe that despite missteps, mistakes, and miscues – all of which are part of any human endeavor – there is no other country doing as much to tangibly and intangibly support its allies as the USA. Unfortunately, the leader is, and superpowers in general, always an easy target. The USA as a country is learning every year it exists. Overall, we are a tested and proven ally.

What is the role of the Czech Republic and similar smaller states in the global security framework? What is the point for US as the superpower to have small allies like us?

The Czech Republic has tremendous value from the geopolitical prospective. Its role in the global framework is to remain a vanguard for democracy and economic prosperity. It is a wonderful place with skilled and clever people possessing a great work ethic. Czech businesses offer high quality manufacturing and excellent craftsmanship. This attracts me also to work for the Czechoslovak Group.

Regarding the U.S having small allies, I would challenge any claims that the value of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland or similar smaller countries are correlated to their size. The character of a country, just as that of a man, tips the scales. In NATO, every member of the team is important regardless of its GDP. Managing global challenges requires team effort. Despite the challenges associated with working as a team, teamwork produces better results than any individual effort.

What role should smaller state like the CR play in the North Atlantic alliance and also as the security partner and ally for the USA?

CR should be very actively engaged in NATO. As NATO seeks increased military spending, develops its structure, and focuses on the threats like cyber-attacks and Russian aspirations, the Czech Republic can be the leader in fostering a great relationship between Europe and the USA. As CSG´s activities already show, the CR can continue to have a sound voice as a business interlocutor as well. The Czech Republic should focus its effort towards defining then carving out niche capabilities in accordance with its strengths and those that have global significance or bearing upon current and forecasted challenges.

Do you think NATO should extend, accept new members or stay as it is now?

I believe NATO should continue to accept new members if those seeking membership agree with the purpose and the rules of the organization; if they embrace sustaining an alliance that keeps Europe strong and healthy; and if those seeking to join acknowledge that the power of the alliance to protect its members is much stronger than the power of individual nations alone. 

In the CR we sometimes marvel at the positive attitude of the Americans towards their soldiers. What should be done in to reach the same quality of relationship between Czech military heroes and the public like in the US?

In the USA, the public is well aware that military service is a personal sacrifice which includes also the probability to go to fight in a war. It is a sacrifice not only for the soldier but also for his or her family. Military service is not for everyone nor should it be expected of all. Those who apply for it are from a cross-section of the American society. You find there are sons and daughters from well-off families that are purely motivated to serve their country. The military also provides an opportunity for people like me who use the service as a platform to change their lives and the lives of their children. There is a deep appreciation throughout American society for the role the U.S. military plays. The society is also aware that veterans taking off the uniform must be reintegrated into the society and that those who suffered physically, mentally, and emotionally because of their service need help.

Less than one percent of the U.S. population serves in the armed forces. Having a professional military without conscripts, there is always the risk of having a gap in understanding between the armed forces and society. There is one simple thing to avoid it: Veterans should go to people and tell them about their service.

I offer, to enhance the relationship between Czech people and their military heroes, that the government and influential media partners should create focused venues to promote an understanding of the importance and significance of the military profession.

Why did you leave the army and why did you joined in US completely unknown company CSG from Europe?

I served for 34 years and I enjoyed my service to the very last moment. But I felt there is a time for transition. I am not the type who likes to sit on the bench, so I searched for a challenge. I like problem solving, opening doors, and I want to contribute to the success of the organization. My other desire was to look at the military from a different perspective…a corporate view. The offer to lead the U.S. subsidiary of CSG fulfilled all these preferences. CSG has a phenomenal record of progress and it is exciting to be part of it. I see huge potential for further growth. I think I can bring to the organization a sense of loyalty and duty which can be very beneficial to CSG. As a military leader, I learned many things and can share relevant experiences with my CSG colleagues.

What do you see as the key principal for CSG or other Czech company to succeed on the US market?

To succeed in the U.S., the principles are the same regardless. Essential elements are teamwork, communication, understanding the environment, and being willing to overlook day to day challenges while believing in a solid strategy. It is a constant learning process where you may sometimes fail, but you must get up and continue towards your goal. Another key principle is transparency - a true sign of strength, not weakness. CSG has what it takes to succeed in the U.S. market. It won’t come without hard work and effort, but be assured it will come.

Last question: What is your experience with Czech and Slovak Republic and their people so far?

My experience and interaction with Czechs and Slovaks has been positive. I observed the culture, the values of the Czech people and liked what I saw. This persuaded me to join the CSG.

I believe that hiccups with people are a cost of interaction and one faces the same struggles of communicating or ensuring understanding in any country. Generally, people across the globe are really not that different. 

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