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Keeping Colleagues Safe is Lifelong Mission for Garda’s Training Officer

By: Joe Gavaghan
July 27, 2012

While it happened almost 40 years ago, the memory of the event that caused Garda Cash Logistics Shooting Instructor/Trainer Marcel Gagnon to devote his career to keeping his colleagues safe is still vivid.

On the morning of Wednesday, September 12, 1973, the young man enjoyed a cup of coffee with his co-worker  Claude, who was nearing his first anniversary  as an armored car guard. It was a special day for Claude who was also looking forward to celebrating his birthday at the end of the work day with wife and the couple’s young son.

The celebration never happened. At 3 p.m. a call came into the company switchboard reporting that a robbery had taken place with one guard killed and two injured. The guard who died was Marcel’s friend Claude.

“That tragedy really shook me,” Marcel remembers from that terrible day. It also convinced him of the urgent need for safety training which, at the time, was almost non-existent. “I began to think about and document what was needed to keep the guards safer on the job,” he recalls. “I wanted to turn the tragedy into something positive – something that would prevent it from happening to others.”

Marcel quickly convinced management to begin developing more comprehensive training programs for the armored car crews.

 

Taking Training to a New Level

“My goal was to bring the training to a new level,” he states. “The company supported me in that objective because my managers knew that more training would help to prevent tragedies like the one that took Claude’s life.”

In 1974, Marcel began taking courses to improve his ability as a weapons and shooting range training instructor. His expertise and performance at shooting competitions gave him significant credibility with his co-workers. With a chuckle, he recalled one competition where he and his team “psyched” out the competition by pretending to carefully examine the shape of their bullets as they prepared for the competition. The exercise was meaningless but significantly distracted and unnerved their competitors who couldn’t figure out what Marcel and his team were up to.

That mischievous sense of humor reveals one aspect of Marcel’s success as a trainer. He is inventive in his approach and works to understand the people he trains, where they are in terms of skills and abilities and then modifies his training to suit them. He estimates that he has trained more than 60,000 people over his career.

“My friends tease me and ask how many jaws I have worn out by speaking so much and so quickly,” he relates with a smile.

Prevention and Strategy the Key

All that passionate and patient teaching has paid off. Following the deaths of three guards in robberies over a 15-month period between 1993-94, Marcel intensified his training regimen even further, once again meeting with his supervisors and crafting a “Prevention and Strategy” program to be delivered in all branches throughout the company.

“That training is now mandatory,” Marcel says proudly, “and since it was instituted we have had no further loss of life. Our work methods are more secure. We review and modify shooting techniques. All of these changes give tremendous confidence to our professionals when they are out on the road.”

Proof of the effectiveness of Marcel’s training was seen one Saturday when, as team leader, he was training a new guard. At the second stop of the day, the guard took up a strategic position to protect the crew members making the delivery. He noticed an individual hiding behind a tree with a weapon. He alerted Marcel who called for the crew to take positions behind their vehicle, effectively blocking the assailant who fled and was later apprehended by police.

Marcel, according to those he has trained, is passionate about what he does and, like all good teachers, is patient and carefully observes his students to make sure they understand the lessons. His enthusiasm for the job is infectious and has not waned in his four decades of outstanding service. The impact he has had on the safety and well-being of his colleagues is immeasurable.

The Triangle of Excellence

“The beginning of the concept for the Triangle of Excellence came to me 25 years ago,” Marcel says of the simple idea that comprises  three  elements  — Security, Client Service and Productivity  — which, together,  form the foundation  for creating and sustaining excellence at Garda. Like the best management principles, the Triangle was nurtured and refined over time in the training Marcel provided, based on real-world experience and careful thought.

“Ever since childhood, I loved to examine how things work, how things are made up,” Marcel says. “I liked building things, motorized toys that I could modify and dismantle to see how they worked. Everything I did was to build and improve the product. I have a fertile imagination and I’m a dreamer who is always looking to see what is coming next.”

As he was celebrating his 40th anniversary with Garda, Marcel introduced his Triangle of Excellence concept to Garda President and CEO Stephan Cretier. The concept  was enthusiastically embraced and Mr. Cretier urged his management team to deploy it company-wide.

“Mr. Cretier’s reaction went far beyond his expectations, ” Marcel proudly notes, pleased that the CEO embraced his concept. “I am a small part of this company,” he concludes modestly, “but I hope I can continue to contribute to help Garda grow as the leader in our industry.”