By Gary Redfern
Valley Women Writer
2:51 PM PDT, April 27, 2011
Indications are that a good portion of this nation has gone soft. Americans eat more, weigh more and are generally not considered as tough as their predecessors, who settled this land with mettle and resolve, some on horseback with a gun at their side. It’s the quintessential image of the West: tough pioneers, men and women alike, forging a new life from a bountiful, yet unforgiving, environment.
Those who meet Kris Green and consider her slight build, shiny blonde hair, blue eyes and pleasing smile might think she doesn’t have what it takes to carry on that tough, independent spirit. They would be mistaken. Just ask her mom, Karen Bailey.
“I don’t ever want my daughters to become victims,” she says of Kris, 23, and her older sister, Samantha, 26. “I want them to be able to say ‘no’ and ‘back off.’ I don’t want them to walk around all macho either. They can still be women, be ladies, but don’t push them around, or they’ll turn into someone you don’t want to meet.”
For Kris and Karen self-defense and protecting the community at large isn’t just a sideline, it’s a career and a calling. Kris manages the Border Tactical gun range at 925 N. Imperial Ave. in El Centro, and Karen is her right hand. Their roots go deep.
“I started shooting a BB gun probably around age 3,” Karen continues in her exacting manner. “My father (Pete Henthorne) always had guns. If I wanted to try shooting a certain type of gun, I could shoot it, but he always made sure I knew the safety first.”
Moving on in life did not diminish Karen’s enthusiasm for taking aim.
“I was fortunate to marry a man who enjoyed firearms as much as I do,” Karen says of her husband, Allen Bailey.
So naturally for this Holtville family, which includes a son, A.J., 19, shooting was a tradition passed on to another generation. Like her mother, Kris started shooting at a young age under the guidance of her mom, dad and grandfather (Pete Henthorne).
“I spent a lot of time with my grandpa out in the desert,” Kris recalls fondly. “He would bring out balloons or milk jugs for me to shoot. I started with a BB gun. When I was 10, I graduated to a .22 rifle. I still have it.”
Her favorite gun now?
“Sig Sauer .40 caliber. I tried my dad’s Sig and never gave it back,” she admits with a coy smile.
It’s a long way from a kid’s BB gun to the tactical Sig Sauer, but under her family’s guidance Kris has taken each step carefully, yet she is clearly bringing that family tradition to another level. Sure she’s a former Holtville Carrot Festival queen, still calls her mom when she’s not feeling well and is a wife (married to Adam Green). Besides managing Border Tactical, she’s also a certified firearms instructor, highly qualified in self-defense, a member of the De Anza Rescue Unit and the youngest-ever member, and president of the Imperial County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse. She’s following in some big footsteps. Her mother Karen was the first woman president of the Posse.
Like a traditional Western family, horses are as much a passion as guns, and, of course, it can’t just be a hobby.
“We run ATSKAB horse stables,” Karen explains. “The business name is our family initials from our first names and last name.”
“I got my first horse in the third grade,” Kris says. “When I watched a cattleman care for the horses, I became interested in that. I originally planned to be a large animal vet. I love animals.”
Academics were stressed in the Bailey household as well. Karen’s mother, Sally Henthorne, was the Holtville librarian for years, and Karen followed her by working there and at the library at Pine School. Karen and her two daughters remain avid readers.
So with all the other influences, how did the family recreational activity of shooting become a career for Kris? It has to do with Don Wharton, then the range director at Border Tactical and now regional director and a helicopter pilot for Reach Air Medical Services, which transports patients to and from regional medical facilities, and from wrecks and crashes in the rural areas of the county.
“In December 2005 he asked us to attend a training exercise for two days held in the local desert by Progressive Force Concepts,” Karen recalls.
“We did the shooting and the hand-to-hand combat. The result was we loved it,” Kris says. “We’ve been training with them ever since.”
Based in Las Vegas, Progressive uses Imperial County desert areas and the Border Tactical Indoor Range to hold a variety of training for the military, law enforcement and private security personnel.
Then, in 2007, Wharton needed help at Border Tactical, which was founded and is owned by Bill DuBois of El Centro, who also owns the adjacent Phoenix Uniforms store. Wharton, Kris says, knew two women who could more than handle the job.
“He’s pretty selective … for him to choose us,” Kris ponders, and yet she knows she is up to the task. “It’s definitely not your average job. My knowledge base on firearms has increased so much.”
Despite being a certified instructor who even teaches firearms at Imperial Valley College and is obviously in charge at the business and not short on confidence, Kris concedes she’s still in a business where women do not always get the respect they deserve.
“I’ve had people ask me a question. I give them an answer. They don’t believe me, so they ask the person I’m working with. I realize that will happen. I’ve developed a tough skin. What happens, happens,” she insists. “The population of women in shooting is growing, but it’s still not the fully acceptable thing to do. I’m blonde. I have blue eyes. I’m not the stereotypical shooter.”
Kris’ resolve may be true, not only because of her personality and upbringing, but also from the sheer joy she gets from her work.
Explaining how she became involved with DeAnza Rescue Unit, she recalls her husband and his father, Jeff Green of Brawley, would “get a call for a rescue and they’d be gone. I was, like, ‘I want to go.’ ”
If it’s up to Kris and Karen, more girls and women will be taking advantage of such opportunities.
“We help Don Wharton and Bill Smerdon do self-defense classes. At Border Tactical we offer private instruction, even one on one. We find that women are more comfortable being trained by other women,” Karen explains.
Self-defense is not something mother and daughter need when working so closely together, even with the younger being the boss.
Asked what it’s like to work for her daughter, Karen smiles, “I wish I could say terrible, but it’s good. We bounce ideas off each other. Working with her makes coming to work a joy. I’m not only working with my daughter, I’m working with one of my best friends.”
While Kris is content at where she is now, she concedes ambition may come calling someday.
“I’m enjoying this, but I will go back to college and learn administration of justice and business management. I find the law fascinating.”
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