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Monday, December 6th, 2021

Department of Defense program trains veterans to lead digital human trafficking investigations

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In recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Department of Defense(DoD) highlighted a program on Tuesday that trains military veterans to help law enforcers identify and curb online child exploitation.

Veterans who are wounded, ill or transitioning are trained to use computer forensics and law enforcement tools to help federal agents fight online child exploitation under the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child-Rescue Corps program.

“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,” U.S. Army Col. Kimberly Moros, the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command’s career transition initiatives, said.

More than 130 veterans have completed the program since 2013, with 74 being offered careers in federal law enforcement and 31 entering internship programs. Graduating veterans lead digital forensics investigations, searching for online evidence of sexual assault or child abuse imagery produced by organized crime rings.

“HEROs and HERO interns now make up over 25 percent of the Homeland Security computer forensics workforce,” Robert Kurtz, the unit chief for HERO at Homeland Security Investigations, said.

The DoD Combating Trafficking in Persons Office identifies three main types of human trafficking: forced labor, sex trafficking and child soldiering. Homeland Security Investigations rescued at least 820 child victims of sexual exploitation in 2016.

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