Ex-ski bum will train Iraqi cops | VailDaily.com

Ex-ski bum will train Iraqi cops

Preston Utley/Vail DailyVail Police Sgt. Dan Torgerson will be leaving for Iraq in a couple of weeks to train Iraqi police officers for one year.

VAIL ” When Dan Torgerson moved to Vail 13 years ago, snowboarding was his calling.

“That year, it dumped 3 feet every night,” he said.

Torgerson had 18 roommates and was on the mountain 100 days a year. He worked jobs around town at Safeway, at Russell’s and the Vail Athletic Club.

A casual conversation with a Vail cop introduced him to his second calling: Torgerson became a police officer.

“It becomes a call of duty where you say, ‘I’m called to help people,'” he said.

After nine years as a police officer ” five of them in Vail ” Torgerson has yet another calling: He’s going to Iraq for a year to train police officers there.

“I felt the best way I personally as a police officer with nine years of experience could serve my country is by doing what I know: police work,” said Torgerson, who is a sergeant with the Vail police.

A stable police force in Iraq will be an important building block in bringing stability to the country, Torgerson said. A heli-skiing trip to Uzbekistan helped push him toward his decision. In that country, he sensed a distrust between the people and the police.

“It was the tension, you could feel it,” he said.

He’s leaving Vail in a few weeks, and will be heading to Baghdad in October. He’ll be dispatched around the country ” he doesn’t know where ” to help police departments. He’ll teach self-defense, how to use firearms and survival skills.

Torgerson understands the dangers he will face in Iraq, where more than 4,000 coalition soldiers have been killed since 2003.

“It’s a risk I’m willing to take for the people who I’m training and this country we’re trying to help,” he said.

It was a tough decision to quit his job and commit to going to Iraq, he said. But after watching the news for every day years about the unrest in Iraq, he finally decided to go.

“I just decided if there’s any way to help, I’m going to do it,” he said.

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said he’s sad to see Torgerson leave.

“I know Dan feels very strongly that it’s his duty to go over and assist the Iraqi people, not just the police officers,” Henninger said.

Torgerson’s wife, Sam, is supportive of his decision, Torgerson said.

“I have an adventurous wife,” he said. “She understands.”

Torgerson said he hasn’t changed that much from the 19-year-old kid who came to Vail to snowboard.

“I still do the same things,” he said. “I just have direction and a second passion now.”

He’d like to rejoin the Vail police force once his one-year stint in Iraq is done. After all, Vail has a magnetic pull, he said.

“You get the snow in your veins,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism