Alumnus Climbs Ladders at ATF, Air National Guard

Ron Turk in front of an American flag.Ron Turk, Assistant Director, ATF.

Alumnus Ron Turk is soaring in his positions with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and in the U.S. Air National Guard.

A 1988 graduate of the College of Criminal Justice, Turk is the Assistant Director of Operations in ATF in Washington, D.C., overseeing all field operations across the country for the federal law enforcement agency. In the U.S. Air National Guard, Col. Turk has been nominated as Brigadier General by the President and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and is actively seeking potential promotion positions. He previously led his troops in protecting the Baghdad Airport during the Iraq War.

“I have oversight and accountability for operations (in ATF) across the nation, both in its law enforcement and regulatory missions,” said Turk. “I am the executive tasked with command and control of investigations, and I monitor some of the more complex and detailed investigations. I am also in charge of tactical operations.”

Ron Turk runs a press conference in New York as former head of the local office.
Ron Turk runs a press conference in New York as former head of the local office.
For example, ATF was heavily involved in the 2013 bombing during the Boston Marathon, which took the lives of three people and injured more than 200 others. The agency sent both explosive experts and tactical teams to assist with the investigation of the terrorist attack.

On the regulatory side, Turk gets involved in high profile license inspections of gun retailers and works on developing intelligence on crime gun issues.

On the military front, Turk joined the active U.S. Air Force as an E-1, and later transferred to the Air National Guard in 1989 in New Jersey, helping to deploy troops throughout the Middle East and across the world. In 2007-2008, he served with his unit in Iraq -- the first time the entire leadership team of a an Air Guard Security Forces unit was sent to the country – to keep the Baghdad Airport safe from attack. While the airport did take on fire during the surge of enemy forces, the unit held its ground to maintain operations at the airport.

Col. Ron Turk of the National Air Guard helps to defend the Baghdad Airport.
Col. Ron Turk of the National Air Guard helps to defend the Baghdad Airport.
Turk joined the ATF after graduating from SHSU, serving as a street agent in New Jersey for eight years where he was involved with violent crimes with firearms, arson cases, and on a tactical team as a sniper.

“I left the dirt roads in Texas for Jersey,” he recalled.

After his assignment in New Jersey, he served in Washington, D.C. for two years, learning asset forfeiture, which involved the disposition of evidence from crime. Then, he began his supervisory career in Bowling Green, KY; Nashville, TN, and New York, where he was Special Agent in Charge of the office which covered New York City and State. In Kentucky and Tennessee, he fought gun trafficking, the growth of meth labs and bombing by White Supremacists and anti-government organizations. In New York, he focused on crimes of violence and illegal gun trafficking.

When he got to Washington, D.C., he served as a Deputy Assistant Director of Operations for five months, overseeing agency offices in the central region of the country. He was promoted and his responsibilities expanded nationwide.

In addition to law enforcement and regulatory, Turk oversees special operations for ATF. That includes the agency’s tactical teams, enhanced undercover work, and technical equipment. ATF operations also leads a National Center for Explosives Training and Research, which maintains technical expertise, knowledge, experience and forensic capabilities for explosives. In addition, the center is used to train federal, state and local law enforcement officer to deal with explosives.

Turk said he plans to continue to pursue his careers in ATF and in the military.

Col. Turk stands in his uniform in front of an America flag.
Col. Turk stands in his uniform in front of an America flag.
"“What I have learned in the military has benefitted ATF and what I have learned at ATF benefits the military,” said Turk.

Turk said that Sam Houston State University provided him with the foundation to pursue his career, particularly in understanding the legal and technical issues that are part of the job. He urged students interested in a federal career to make sure to learn the basics of their profession first before pursuing specialty jobs.

“You have to take the time to learn the basic skills of the job you want to do,” said Turk. “Most students want to be detectives, experts, managers and supervisors, but you need to learn the basics of the job.”

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