During the Gulf War, Denis Rousseau was working as a flight engineer for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
He joined the RCAF in 1967, when he was 19 years old. He was living on a farm in Quebec at the time and one day his buddy looked up at a passing plane and told him they should go join the air force.
“Growing up on the farm, I didn’t even know the air force existed. We went to visit a base. My buddy ended up leaving, but I stayed,” said Rousseau, who spent the next 30 years serving in bases around the world.
He worked on just about every aircraft the air force maintains, including the Yukon Aircraft and the Interceptor nuclear bombers.
After being promoted to “flight engineer,” Rousseau was posted to Canadian Forces Base Uplands, in Ottawa, where he worked on the VIP squadron of aircraft that shuttled around heads of state and government movers and shakers. He went next to Canadian Forces Base Edmonton where he worked on the Hercules freight aircraft, which were used to train paratroopers.
“We trained troops all over the world and would go on exercises all the way up to Alert, in the North Pole, where we would deliver gas, food and medical supplies to the troops stationed there,” said Rousseau.
In 1998, the Berlin Wall was still up, when Rousseau was reassigned to a NATO unit that was tasked with patrolling the iron curtain. They would spend one week on patrol at a time and would land at a different base, in a different country each week.
“During the war in Sarajevo, we would bring food and blankets to Italy, for the troops. We would also bring back the prisoners and the wounded,” said Rousseau.
After retiring from the Air Force, Rousseau spent 13 years as a flight-testing engineer for Pratt and Whitney. He says it wasn’t a bad career path for a farm boy from Quebec.