By Waysun Johnny Tsai
Early this year I was introduced to a company that focuses on executive protection and guard services. The interesting part is that they are based in St. Paul, Minnesota and do a lot of work in and around the city of Minneapolis. We all know what the climate around there is and has been like.
I figured any company that would name itself after JomsVikings is probably worth a look. I ran into these Vikings during a recent Controlled F.O.R.C.E. critical response and active threat environment class given in San Antonio, and they kicked all types of ass. So much so that I decided to take a closer look at the company.
I talked to one of the lead Vikings at JomsVikings, Gary Essig about who there are and what they do in some very challenging environments and situations . . .
TTAG: Vikings Huh? Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us why anyone should listen to what you have to say.
JomsVikings: My name is Gary Essig. I am the Operations Manager at JomsVikings and I am not convinced that ANYONE should listen to us. But if they do, it has to do with the level of combined and diverse experience in the security industry we possess. We have assembled some key people, with key backgrounds, to develop the best product available in our marketplace.
TTAG: What are your backgrounds? Military? Law Enforcement? Executive protection?
JomsVikings: Our company is comprised of former military operators and former law enforcement professionals and a strong presence of private and corporate security professionals.
I worked as a corrections officer for a state agency. I participated in multiple specialized teams that included the SORT Team, security squad, prisoner transportation, etc. Then I realized that a thirty-year career would equate to spending about ten years in prison. No bueno.
After a few years in the corporate world, I realized that I really wanted to operate in the protection field. I got involved with volunteer teams, put myself through a globally recognized EP School, and started grinding. It’s been a challenging yet rewarding career.
TTAG: JomsVikings hasn’t been around that long, about two years, right? What made you throw your hats into the security arena in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area?
JomsVikings: The security industry landscape in the Twin Cities has been a mixed bag. The owner of JomsVikings, Mike MacDonald, recognized that there were no standards and many clients were stuck with sub-par service. Training was almost non-existent, and nobody was doing anything about it.
He decided to do something and JomsVikings was created. His drive and dedication was to carve out a company based on integrity, honor, character, and excellence.
TTAG: What or how involved were you involved with the city during the riots?
JomsVikings: JomsVikings was formed right at the flashpoint of the George Floyd debacle. News crews needed to be able to safely navigate the riots, the protests, and the general chaos. Our team was instrumental in the safe completion of those duties.
In the first 15 months of the company’s existence, we logged over 20,000 hours on the ground with local and national news crews, all without ONE failure. That’s an amazing feat when you think about how volatile the situation was at the height of it all. And we are still servicing those news outlets today.
TTAG: Let’s talk about how Minneapolis defunded its police department. How many police
officers were there before compared to now?
JomsVikings: What has happened to the law enforcement community in the Twin Cities is an absolute shame. The results are proving that fact. Violent crime, carjackings and murders are all on track for record highs this year. And there seems to be no end in sight.
While numbers would vary, based on who you talk with, the Minneapolis PD was over nine hundred strong in 2018. My sources tell me that they are well under 600 at this point. That’s partially the result of the “defunding” effort.
But even worse, the constant attacks on LE has caused many to decide on other careers. Workforce and morale among the existing LE community is still deteriorating, and many more officers that I know personally are preparing to exit the field. It’s a mass exodus of some incredibly talented people.
TTAG: How does that affect you and your company?
JomsVikings: Obviously, we are not able to “police” our community. That takes a certain level of authority and different skill sets. However, the public will still need solutions to help keep them safe. That’s where competent private security professionals increasingly come in.
Many duties that LE would handle in the past are now being addressed by private security companies. And we are certainly training and preparing for the ever-changing landscape. Private companies, event venues, churches, schools, and many municipalities are starting to see value in what we bring to the equation and are calling on us for things that once were only addressed by off-duty LE officers.
TTAG: What services do you offer?
JomsVikings: As a full-service protection agency, we focus on a few main categories like executive protection, school security, media protection in less-permissive environments, workplace violence and labor disputes. We also manage residential security and secure transportation in our EP apparatus.
TTAG: Your team recently attended an active shooter training course in San Antonio with Controlled F.O.R.C.E. What did you think of the class?
JomsVikings: Most of us have children or grandchildren in schools. As such, we’re concerned that the current process used to keep them safe is lacking in some areas. That’s not an editorial on all programs, but the results of the Uvalde catastrophe proves the point.
When we partnered with Controlled F.O.R.C.E., we knew we were connecting with the best opportunity to effect change in this arena. And when we were invited to participate in the training, we were all in.
The training was challenging; physically, mentally, emotionally, and tactically. But challenges are what make you better. The instructors were some of the most professional and enthusiastic I have trained with. They knew what they were trying to get out of you, and they did exactly that.
It was also evident that they were teaching from experience, and not just from head-knowledge. They were surgical in their demonstrations and expected nothing less from us.
TTAG: It was their C.R.A.T.E. (critical response in an active threat
environment) course. Why was that important enough to fly across the country to attend?
JomsVikings: We are making a huge push to effect change in the school security arena. The unfortunate part is that there’s a plethora of “great pretenders” out there. We are not willing to be that.
If we’re called upon to protect schools, we want to be fully prepared in a tactical sense. The mindset of, “It’s time to put it all on the line” isn’t a reach for us, especially when innocent children’s lives are at stake. If we are going to be successful, current and proven training is what’s needed.
We knew this was the course to get that training. And in hindsight, I would do it again TOMORROW! In fact, we will be working at another C.R.A.T.E. course by the end of 2022.
TTAG: Is your company focusing on school safety?
JomsVikings: Very much so. A I mentioned earlier, many of us have children or grandchildren that could easily be affected by threats in school. Kids should be free to learn and grow in a safe and secure environment, without needing to feel imprisoned.
While some of the systems already in place can work, their success has proven to be limited. There are more pieces to the puzzle and better protocols out there , and we want to bring our talents to the table as part of the solution.
TTAG: Please expand on that a bit.
JomsVikings: Funds and resources that are meant for securing schools have been diverted to programs for counseling, student intervention, etc. But the attacks on schools that have cost human lives are the result of outside attackers getting access resulting in carnage. We have teamed up with local sheriffs, police chiefs, criminal justice professionals and state legislators to address that aspect of the issue.
As these issues are increasingly addressed and solutions are developed, more enthusiastic leadership and training partners are going to be needed. We want to be part of those solutions, so we wanted to get ahead of the curve. Every day that changed and solutions are delayed is another day that schools and students are left vulnerable. And that is just not acceptable.
TTAG: What would you say is your company mission as Vikings in this crazy state that our country currently in?
JomsVikings: We are not only dedicated in our approach to clients and contracts, but also to the people we employ. As a disabled veteran-owned company and we’re committed to being a landing pad for veterans who are transitioning from their military career and looking for someplace that their skills and experience can translate.
We also want to support former LE professionals that are still interested in serving their communities, but have decide that their time in conventional policing has ended.
People from all levels of society are realizing what kind of day and age we are living in now. The risks, threats and vulnerabilities are getting very real for many people who never thought about them before. As a company, JomsVikings is perfectly placed to help. And while we are a for-profit company, our thought process is…just do what’s right, because it’s right. The rest will take care of itself.
TTAG: Any closing words of advice to anyone who wants to get involved with what you are doing?
JomsVikings: Yes! If you consider yourself a protector, and if you have a heart for the sheep, then it’s time to get ready. The time to get your head right about what you may be called to do is now. We’ve decided that should we happen on a situation like what happened in Uvalde, we are prepared to put it all on the line. If you aren’t, you need to quit sucking up training valuable time and training dollars and let the Vikings go do some Viking shit.
TTAG: Thanks For your time, Gary, stay safe out there.
JomsVikings: Thank you for having us.
A Chicago native, Waysun Johnny Tsai is an internationally recognized published book and DVD personality, tactical industry magazine writer and founder of the C.U.M.A. Survival School and C.U.M.A Combatives. He is also a renowned knife designer for several companies such as TOPS KNIVES, SMOKY MOUNTAIN KNIFE WORKS and WORK TUFF GEAR.
Johnny completed his first Controlled F.O.R.C.E. Instructor certification in 2012 and joined the company in 2022 as the Special Programs Manager and instructor. He has over 25 years of experience in the private security sector and has held security management positions at Chicago Public Schools on location at Morgan Park High School and for the CPS Special Events Administration citywide security “Yellow Jackets” team. Johnny is a lifelong martial artist who holds multiple black belts that are eighth degree (master level) and above. He brings more than 36 years of self-defense instructor experience to the team.