He’s been in the kind of close calls you hide your eyes from in the movies.
A motorcade taking fire on the streets of Beirut, the only way out was the wrong direction. A hop over the median and the entire motorcade shifted gears, throwing off the shooters.
It’s the kind of fast thinking security expert Tom Dorsch has been doing since 1985. A former Marine and security adviser to dignitaries across the world, he knows how to protect, and he knows motorcades. Dorsch knows what to do when the bad guy wants to get to the one person you’re there to protect.
And with the NATO summit inching closer, Chicago’s streets will see motorcades getting diplomats and their families to and from their hotels and the summit.
Motorcades aren’t new, Dorsch will tell you. They’ve been around for centuries. The first protection agents were Caesar’s Praetorian guards. And there were guards to protect pilgrims en route to the Holy Land from the Port of Jaffa to Jerusalem.
But there’s now a more exact methodology to that protection, especially within the last 50 years.
It’s meant to be a safe and secure way to get a VIP or dignitary from one place to another. But there’s always a risk.
“Motorcades present a great target, because roughly 70 percent of attacks on a principal target take place in a motorcade,” Dorsch said. “It’s the only time the bad guys or terrorists are going to have to get to this individual.”
There’s a science to a high-profile motorcade, like one protecting the president.
A number of vehicles make up the package, including the lead vehicle, the limousine and a follow vehicle. A tactical vehicle usually follows the follow-up vehicle. And rounding up the motorcade are the “strap hanger” vehicles, which usually make up part of the VIP’s staff, other dignitaries and the press.
The goal is to get the VIP in and out as securely as possible. But history shows things can go wrong.
“Ronald Reagan leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel – he was getting back in his vehicle and that one small window of time was the only time John Hinckley had to take his shot,” Dorsch said. “And that’s what the assassin is going to wait for, especially when you’re the lone gunman.”
There’s also the possibly of a car bomb along the route, which has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Agents really have to be alert, and they can’t be sleeping at the wheel. They have to be ready for them at that point,” Dorsch said.
All those being protected, especially at the NATO summit, will have an immediate safe haven. That area is scoped out months in advance by protection agents. That’s an area to get them out of the range of gunfire. It ranges from the lobby of a hotel, to something more drastic, like a bunker or basement, Dorsch said.
Dorsch has plenty of dramatic stories to share, but life is a bit calmer now. He’s spending his time opening On Target, a range and tactical training center in Crystal Lake. He’s offering a VIP protection course to train agents who may soon be running motorcades and security details.
“What I teach is that the attacks come in many different ways and the trick is to always keep yourself trained to the level where you’re always alert,” Dorsch said. “There is no routine detail and you really have to treat them as high threat because that attack can come at any time.”