Insider Interview: Karen Bartuch

December 5, 2013
Karen Bartuch

Karen Bartuch demonstrates her technique for a quick pistol mag release.

Each of my thrillers feature strong female characters. In THE ATHENA PROJECT, four amazing women take center stage as part of the world’s most elite counterterrorism unit. A fellow author described this team as “007 in stilettos,” which reminded me of my good friend Karen Bartuch. Karen is President and Founder of the Women’s Tactical Association, which is dedicated to bringing training in the areas of firearms, fitness, tactics and combat mindset to female law enforcement. Karen has worked in the law enforcement field for more than a decade and recently founded AlphaGirls to teach (civilian) women to protect and empower themselves in all aspects of  their lives through the same skills. It’s a real treat to have Karen take part in the Ultimate Reader Experience this month.

Brad: In THE ATHENA PROJECT, the Delta leaders scouted out potential female operators at elite fitness events. Had the Women’s Tactical Association been around, it might have been another excellent resource for ATHENA team members. Who are your members? What do they have in common? And what is the mission of the Women’s Tactical Association (WTA)?

Karen: Thank you for having me; I am honored and humbled to be a part of the Ultimate Reader Experience – Hello Brad Thor Readers! WTA members are folks that are proactive about their tactical training (firearms, fitness, combat mindset and tactics) ranging from patrol-level officers to K9 to SWAT, military personnel and civilians. These folks are students for life and not satisfied with the status quo, they are in constant pursuit of self-betterment whether on the range, on the street or off-duty. The primary mission of the WTA is to promote and encourage training and education among female law enforcement in an effort to enhance and refine skills in the areas of firearms, fitness, combat mindset and tactics. The WTA provides a forum for members to share their experiences and skills and cull best practices. In addition, the WTA provides networking opportunities for its members.

Brad: I was inspired to write THE ATHENA PROJECT for my daughter. I wanted her and her friends to have strong female characters to look up to. These characters could have been based on you. When and how did you know you might be interested in the law enforcement field? You’ve done everything from patrol to undercover work. What drew you to the tactical side?

Karen: First off – thank you for the kind words and for writing about women in such a positive way. I became interested in law enforcement after a brief stint in corporate America. I graduated from Northwestern, thought I knew it all and was going to get some great job, and did, but found myself pretty dissatisfied and/or not challenged. I felt the need to be a part of something bigger and more important than myself. I have three older brothers, one a firefighter and the other two in law enforcement – and they seemed to love what they were doing. Chicago was hiring at the time so I took the test and a year later was hired. It was a pretty radical shift at the time for me but I absolutely fell in love with the job. The tactical addiction came a little later in my career. A few factors culminated all around the same time. I responded to an active shooter situation on the Southside where an officer had already been shot after attempting a street stop. The offender fled and was hiding out in an underground basement entrance (he totally had the superior tactical advantage). He had pockets full of ammo and a bible and kept on shooting for over an hour while we waited for the SWAT team to arrive. Of course, all of the responding officers, being good, aggressive officers, were chomping at the bit to run down the gangway and grab him. Unfortunately, that would not have been smart or tactical. My sergeant had prior military and SWAT experience and I really respected the way he took over the situation and knew the best way to attack it. In addition, I was carrying a Sig DAO handgun that I was OK with but could never had made a 40 plus yard shot with if I had to. I also didn’t have a rifle. I said to myself right then that it was up to me – not my department – to get better at my chosen profession. I started going to more classes and uncovered this entire tactical community and often was the only female so I decided to start the WTA. Everyone laughed at me at first and then when I hosted the first meeting and had 30 women show up I knew I was on to something special and that had been lacking.

Brad: You use a great term, “self-offense” as a mindset relevant to law enforcement officers and citizens alike. Can you explain what that means and tell my fans how they can apply it in their daily lives?

Karen: I swear I cringe when I hear the word “self-defense” – that implies that you have to wait for someone to strike first or for something to happen before you respond. I like to take a more proactive approach about my safety and am completely comfortable striking first (if justified). Most bad guys are looking for victims (this is why shooters target schools) – people that seem shy or weak – not opponents – if you are on the offense (meaning prepared and proactive) you exude strength and register as someone not to be trifled with. This doesn’t mean I walk around on red alert or amped up all day, it is just the opposite, I am more at peace knowing that I am prepared – physically and mentally. Combat mindset is just as important as the physical stuff, if not more.

Brad: Among your passions are the advancement/empowerment of women and the Second Amendment. You live and work in Illinois. Why is it important that the WTA is headquartered there? What type of advocacy work are you involved in on these fronts? What are the greatest threats in these areas?

Karen: I am born and raised in Chicago so despite the city having its issues it is still my home and I want to make it better. I am an outspoken advocate for the Second Amendment on NRA News and other conservative media outlets, but also trying to show that a different side of gun owners (educated, female, law enforcement and Illinoisan) in mainstream media with appearances on local news stations and radio. I also write for several publications on firearms safety, education and responsibility. This along with working with young girls on their leadership, careers and self-protection are my real passions.

Brad: Which member of the ATHENA team do you most relate to and why?

Karen: Hands down – Megan Rhodes! Looks and personality-wise: tall blonde with Nordic features and “always the first one to volunteer to go into dangerous situations”. Love it!


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