On the Record With ... Tom Dorsch

Tom Dorsch, director of operations at On Target Range and Tactical Center in Crystal Lake, poses for a portrait Wednesday. Dorsch is a former Marine, security expert for diplomats and instructor. He's now teaching some of the shooting center's specialized gun courses.
Tom Dorsch, director of operations at On Target Range and Tactical Center in Crystal Lake, poses for a portrait Wednesday. Dorsch is a former Marine, security expert for diplomats and instructor. He's now teaching some of the shooting center's specialized gun courses.

Tom Dorsch would make a very good friend to have – or a very bad enemy.

The Chicago native, after a six-year stint in the Marine Corps, ended up as a special agent of the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service, the security and law enforcement arm of the U.S. State Department. It’s a job that took him from war-torn Beirut to Iraq, Liberia, Haiti, Colombia, and a long list of other places you wouldn’t want to visit. His job was to keep VIPs alive, and he was good at it – he eventually became training director for foreign presidential security details for the State Department’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance.

Dorsch also has authored a trilogy of historical fiction books, and established a Wisconsin-based outdoor survival school.

Now living in Lake in the Hills, Dorsch settled down, so to speak, as the operations director for On Target Range & Tactical Center in Crystal Lake, where he puts his skills to use in the classroom.

Senior Reporter and self-professed gun nut Kevin Craver talked to Dorsch at the business about his travels and stories.

Craver: Where did your career get started?

Dorsch: In the Philippines while in the Marine Corps, patrolling the jungles. There was an insurgency going on at the time. They’d send us out to engage or capture insurgents – the New People’s Army – in the 1970s. [The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.]

I went to college on the GI Bill – it was the only way I could afford it. I went to Honduras to do a thesis on the insurgency [in Nicaragua] of the Contras against the Sandinistas. I worked training the Contras as a volunteer, kind of like the Flying Tigers in World War II.

Craver: Where did you go for spring break? Somalia?

Dorsch: I almost went there – I was in that part of the world.

Craver: So how did you get into the diplomatic security service?

Dorsch: I was working as a security contractor in Khartoum, Sudan, collecting intelligence for the U.S. embassy. I got to know the staff, and they invited me to become a special agent.

Before Benghazi, no one knew anything about [the service].

Craver: Colombia was – is – dangerous. Did you have any dealings with FARC? [FARC is a Communist rebel group that has waged a guerrilla war with the government since 1964.]

Dorsch: FARC was very active when I was there. I was assigned, basically, to keep the president of Colombia alive. I was an adviser and trained his detail, provide them with equipment. President [Alvaro] Uribe had 17 assassination attempts against him, but he survived.

Craver: Why did you settle down?

Dorsch: I have a 2-year-old. I didn’t get married until I was 48, and I was still working, coming and going from Colombia, where I met my wife, who worked at the U.S. embassy.

Even then ... I was married in 2006, and in 2007 I went to Liberia to do the same thing I did in Colombia – start a program to train the Liberian secret service to keep THEIR president alive.

In Iraq, I helped train Iraqi police to take over for Americans and continue to protect diplomats. Believe it or not, there are a large number of loyal Iraqis we can trust, and a lot of them have given their lives protecting our diplomats. I lost a number of friends – Iraqis I personally trained – and now they’re gone.

I guess my specialty was to go and start up these protection programs.

Craver: It transitions nicely to your job now – training people how to protect themselves.

Dorsch: You’re right. The parallel is not ironic, but fitting for doing virtually the same thing for civilians in the United States. It’s a channeling of all the past experiences to help keep people alive and properly conceal their carry.

Craver: Do you have a signature course?

Dorsch: The courses I teach are “The Intrepid Traveler,” “VIP Protection” and “Seven Guns That Changed The World.” But courses are “owned” so to speak by the individual instructors.

Craver: Who would take a course on VIP protection?

Dorsch: I gear it toward police – to understand what tactics they’re using, the nature of a protective detail, and their role in facilitating it. There are also students who want to get into the business.

Craver: And you’ve taught outdoor survival courses?

Dorsch: I started an outdoor survival school, first in Wisconsin, and then Colorado. In Colorado, I lived “off the grid.” No electricity – just a wood-burning stove.

Craver: Like that outdoorsman who runs the famous survival school out in the New Jersey Pine Barrens? His name escapes me.

Dorsch: Tom Brown [Jr.]. I know him. I went through his school.

Craver: I noticed you have a couple of books written.

Dorsch: It’s a trilogy of historical fiction novels, “Where Angels Dare.” The first book is set in the initial foray into Jerusalem during the First Crusade, and the finding of the lost revelation of St. John, which contains a code of how to prevent the apocalypse in modern times.

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