Slavery and human trafficking is unfortunately alive and well in the United States and around the world, but not for long if America’s special operations veterans have anything to say about it.

According to the Department of Defense’s Combating Trafficking in Persons office, the three primary forms of human trafficking that remain prevalent today are forced labor, sex trafficking, and child soldiering. In order to combat these forms of modern slavery, the Pentagon has been working with other agencies to help America’s most highly trained war fighters transition into law enforcement roles with their sights set on combating exactly that.

U.S. Special Operations Command, along with Warrior Care Program-Career Transition, the National Association to Protect Children, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have joined forces to establish a program called HERO, short for Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Child-Rescue Corps.

The HERO Child-Rescue Corps Program is designed for wounded, injured and ill transitioning service members and veterans who receive training in high-tech computer forensics and law enforcement skills to assist federal agents in the fight against online child sexual exploitation,” Army Col. Kimberly Moros, chief of SOCOM’s career transition initiatives, said.

“Upon successful completion of the program, HERO interns will have the knowledge, skills and experience to apply for careers with federal, state and local police agencies and other organizations in the field of computer forensics.”

Human trafficking is an oft-under reported issue within the United States. SOFREP contributor and Delta alum George E. Hand IV has written about the subject from a first person perspective. Like the special operations veterans moving through the HERO program, George Hand has utilized his extensive skill set to aid in the fight against human trafficking with the counter-human traffic task force, DeliverFund.

When it comes to hunting those who prey on the innocent, who better than our nation’s most highly trained military veterans?” Moros said.

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“Much of today’s human trafficking and child sexual exploitation is technology facilitated. Offenders utilize the internet and digital technologies to coordinate their activity, advertise, share information and hide evidence. HEROs receive training in counter-child exploitation as well as digital forensics and victim identification. And they are then embedded with federal law enforcement.”

Since its inception, the HERO program has seen over 130 veterans undergo the training required to successfully transition into a counter-trafficking role within one of America’s law enforcement agencies, with 74 being offered positions upon completion of the training and another 31 going on to serve in internships with law enforcement. Although the federal government only recently began tracking rescue statistics, Moros says that in 2016 alone, 820 child victims of human trafficking were identified and rescued by Homeland Security tied agencies.

In many cases, it has been the relentless focus and military mindset that has allowed HEROs to go beyond the digging that might be done in traditional law enforcement to find a victim,” she said.

“As a major segment of the digital forensic workforce, and one especially dedicated to combating child sexual exploitation and trafficking, they [HEROs] have been instrumental in working hundreds of those cases.”

 

Image courtesy of the U.S. Army