TACMINUTE: Interview with Harald Huttarsch, ESA Austria

We had scheduled a meeting with Harald Huttarsch, CEO of ESA Austria and former LE Operator for this spring. The RBT crew has known him for almost ten years, so it was about time we interviewed him on our blog. Unfortunately, Corona didn’t give us a chance to hit the range with him. So we decided to do an interview via what’s app.

RBT: Hey Harry, I hope you are well despite the current circumstances. How does the crisis affect tactical training in general?

Harry during a training contract with ESA

Harry : Hey Felix, thank you. I am fine, and so are my trainers. Of course, we are affected by the current Corona crisis. We had to cancel or postpone classes and we can only provide trainings for our local government clients. Many of my trainers come from outside of Austria, so they cannot support us because of the travel restrictions. The same goes for all our classes outside of Austria. Our trainers and students cannot go to courses that we had scheduled abroad. But we are all well and healty, I hope it’s the same on your side.

RBT: Im well to, the virus is keeping me more busy than most people. Please be so kind to tell our audience about ESA Austria, how long is the Austrian wing of ESA in business and what is your focus.

Harry: ESA Austria is a part of the European Security Academy Network since 2016. Since 2015 Iam working as an instructor for ESA. The chiefs at ESA convinced me to take care of the german speaking regions of Europe. Because of the weapon laws, we decided to settle in Austria. We were also responsible for Switzerland before ESA Switzerland became an own project.

Students and trainers of ESA Austria at the Selection Cup, a tactical shooting competition in the Czech Republic.

Our focus is providing shooting classes for the responsible civilian, teaching the safe and robust use of firearms. We also do a close protection class that is not mainly focused towards hostile environments, but more on providing close protection in Europe. We don’t want to show false images of armed to the teeth contractors, we focus on a service-oriented training that won’t provide the client with a armed guy with sunglasses -but with a professional, smart CPO who will be able to show good behaviors and manners while mastering the challenges of the principals daily tasks.

As a part of the ESA Network we profit from their brand and quality standards, in return we pay them a fee for every participant. We also take part in ESAs global training projects, teaching military and LE in all parts of the world.

Harald in Iraq.

In all our trainings we are trying to set standards, that are accepted by the main providers of close protection around the world.

RBT: You teach a very broad spectrum of stuff, I cant imagine that you teach everything yourself. How big is the instructor cadre of ESA Austria?

Harry: Yes, we have a very broad spectrum of topics, this spectrum even goes beyond what is offered on our website. We are often approached by security companies who need a specific solution for a topic. So for example we did a class focusing on knife defense for a local provider of security services, some months ago. Almost anything is possible, but we don’t want to offer all topics for everyone -especially in regards to military tactics.

The ESA Instructor cadre consists of trainers with military, private security and LE backgrounds.

We wouldn’t be able to provide this broad spectrum of topics without our instructor cadre. Our main cadre is composed of eight instructors, who all feature a military, private security and LE background. We also have a similar sized cadre of specialty instructors, who get drawn for special topics. Most of my instructors come from Austria and Germany, this network is what makes ESA Austria so unique. We also enjoy the fact that all of our instructors are not only employees, but close friends. Its that close bond that makes us so efficient.

We are still growing and we also promote equipment like PPE to our customers and contacts around the world.

RBT: There is a certain buzz regarding your background, regarding rumors of stolen valor and other insults. I really don’t care about all that buzz, perhaps Iam a bit biased, because we worked together for a long time now. Can you tell us the main facts about what you are currently doing besides ESA Austria and also, more important, your professional background?

Harry: Well, that’s a topic that concerns me for a while now, Iam glad you are confronting me with this. Fact is that I retired from my last position in the ministry of justice because of a spine injury that I had in 2016. So from 2016 on I laid the foundation of my retirement, by building what is now ESA Austria.

Harry during his time in the Ministry of Justice.

As I said before, my main background comes from a special assignment in the Austrian Ministry of justice, the “Einsatzgruppe” (engl. Task Force) , which was responsible for taking care of hostage situations inside the jail and taking care of transports for dangerous felons who mainly come from organized crime and terrorism. During my time in the “Einsatzgruppe” I enjoyed many special trainings. 2009 and 2010 I got partly assigned to the “Jagdkommando” of the Austrian Army, spending around 6 months there each year.

Picture from Harry’s assignment to the military.

I received a lot of excellent skill training there but also learned a lot about myself. I want to make clear that I never stated to be a Jagdkommando operator or Tier 1 operator at any time and that I have a deep respect for the operators who do this job. Apparently many people seem to don’t get the difference between a short time assignment and being an operator. Even the fact that I passed their selection training doesn’t make me a Tier 1 operative. After my two short assignments I returned to my unit in the ministry of justice.

In my opinion the whole stolen valor thing is caused by envy and misunderstandings. Many people still think that Iam the only instructor of ESA Austria and I can understand that the thought of a guy teaching shooting, tactics, combatives, survival, TCCC, military and law enforcement stuff all by himself makes some people think of a fraud. In fact I only teach around 20% percent of our classes. It’s a sign of professionalism to say that you cant be an expert in everything and to know when you have to outsource the right stuff to the right guy.

As stated, envy is another cause. ESA Austria is very successful and many other companies see us as competition and would rather have more students themselves. I don’t have any issue with people talking shit about me as a person – everyone is entitled to their own opinion and everyone is also invited to discuss their opinions with me. But trying to sabotage my business by spreading rumors behind my back is quite characterless and cowardly. We already had a trial – which we won – regarding this topic. I assume this is the reason why no one publicly badmouths me, neither on social media nor on blogs or message boards, but instead only tries to spread rumors quietly by hearsay.

I feel happy about the opportunity to make a clear statement about all of this here.

So I feel happy about the opportunity to make a clear statement.

RBT: You also did training in the states, can one compare the training industry in the states to tactical training in Europe? Please take your time to explain.

Harry: I really enjoy training in the states as I get many new influences from there. But not everything from the states is gold standard, for example most K9 trainings in the US can’t keep up with European standards. But shooting training there is truly from another dimension. That’s why I go to the states on a regular basis to train with some of our partners like Full Spectrum Warrior or 2Alpha2Quit. Also, the community of instructors and schools is more relaxed and has a better team spirit. This results in the instructors teaching each other and sharing new insights, which is a benefit for the student.

In Europe we have a more tense atmosphere between the different schools, there is a lot of shit talking and the attempt of keeping students at one school. We always encourage our students to attend trainings at different schools and we love how many actually come back to us. Many people forget that it’s the student who actually chooses his teacher.

Because of our partner First Spear we also have the opportunity to even teach our own classes in the states. We also strive to do this more and more because of the liberal weapon laws and better shooting ranges in the states.

So, its hard to compare Europe and the US, as both are entirely different worlds.

Q: Will I get a cool overseas job after completing your classes?

Harry: No! Perhaps attempting a class will help shaping up your CV, but we don’t offer you any overseas jobs. You should also stay away from companies that do such “offers”.

Working in Africa.

The last time we actually did a CPO class for a big security company , only 50% of the attendees passed the final exam and physical fitness test. Its important to say that paying for a class at ESA Austria doesn’t automatically equal to passing the class.

RBT: How came the decision to become part of the European Security Academy?

Harry: Actually it wasn’t my decision. I did three classes in Poland with ESA in 2014 and ESA approached me with becoming an representative. I agreed and so ESA Austria became a thing. After that, everything grew on its own.

RBT: Thank you for your time and your honest words Harry. I hope to hit the range with you again soon.

Harry: Thanks for the interview buddy, take care.

You can check out ESA Austrias class schedule at their website.

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