Skip to main content
December 31, 2020

Dealing with the Debris of War: Major General James Cowan CBE DSO, CEO HALO Trust: inspiring leadership interview with Jonathan Bowman-Perks

Podcast Details

Top Tip

Leaders need to constantly strive for utter professionalism. Serving to lead means that officers eat last and ensure the troops are cared for.

Major General James Cowan CBE DSO – CEO HALO Trust– dealing with the debris of war – Clearing mines and helping countries recover

James was a soldier for 30 years. He joined as a private soldier in 1982. After Oxford and Sandhurst, he commissioned into The Black Watch in 1987. Aside from regimental duty, he served in the MOD with responsibility for planning the Kosovo operation and was MA1/CGS from before 9/11 until the invasion of Iraq. He commanded The Black Watch in Iraq in 2004 during fighting in Basra, and later for the battle for Fallujah. He was back in Iraq in 2006‐07 for Operation SINBAD. As Chief of Staff 3 (UK) Div, deployed to Southern Iraq in June 2006 to become MND(SE). Planned and executed Operation SINBAD, an attempt to restore order in Basra. MND(SE) consisted of 20 Armd Bde, succeeded by 19 (Mech) Bde. The division also included an Italian Brigade, an Australian Battlegroup, and a Danish battlegroup.

In 2007 he set up 11 Brigade, and took command of Task Force Helmand, serving in Afghanistan in 2009‐10. Commander 11 Brigade, a Combined Arms Brigade formed to become Task Force Helmand in October 2009. The Brigade consisted of 1 RHA, 28 Engr Regt, HCR, 1 Gren Gds, 1 Coldm Gds, 3 RIFLES, 2 YORKS, 1 R WELSH, 1 R ANG, 11 EOD Regt, Danish BG, Estonian Coy and supported by 10 QOGLR. In Helmand, conducted Operation MOSHTARAK, the clearance of the Taliban from central Helmand.

He was subsequently Head of Counter Terrorism planning the Olympic security operation. Responsible for overseas operations run by UK MOD in support of capacity building and security. Also responsible for UK domestic operations including the military security operation for the Olympic Games, in which 18,000 UK Service personnel deployed to sustain the security of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

He was then The General officer commanding GOC 3rd Division. As GOC 3 (UK) Division, oversaw the return of the Division to readiness as the core of the UK Reaction Force. The Division began with 1, 4 and 12 Bdes, and transformed into 1, 12, 20 and 101 Bdes.

James is now CEO of The HALO Trust. HALO has 8,500 staff in 26 countries. At a time of unprecedented crisis, HALO’s humanitarian mission has never been more important. He is married to a hospital doctor with three children. He has been Colonel of his Regiment and chairman of The Black Watch.

James Said on Social Media:

“The landscape for humanitarian clearance of landmines and other debris left behind after war is changing. HALO’s experience of working in post conflict countries over the past 25 years means we are well placed to meet security as well as clearance needs. I look forward to building on HALO’s success to date and expanding our remit and footprint so we can help more vulnerable communities rebuild their lives.

How can we help you?