By Stephen Owsinski:
While we embrace our full-active military service members who bravely enforce foreign policies and buttress American interests abroad, a highly-specialized cadre of military veterans and federal agents combat a home-based battle. As there are foes (nations) whose political objectives are carried out by its military forces, so too are there nemeses on American soil whose perversions are abated by heroes.
Who are these gallant gatekeepers?
Composed of federal law enforcement agents and disabled military veterans, a new program is thriving in the arena of national-level investigations. Specifically, federal agents with Homeland Security and wounded military veterans teamed-up to abate child predation, using a national net to ensnare perpetrators and decimate the scourge of perversion.
Once a Hero, Always a HERO
Dubbed H.E.R.O. (Human Exploitation Rescue Operative), the program launched in 2013 and has bloomed to 100-plus former U.S. soldiers implementing their military training and skills. Those same robust skills are forged with law enforcement tactics and training provided by federal investigators. Predominately, the military veteran contingent conducts meticulous, needle-in-a-haystack operations in the realm of digital forensics analysis, navigating the labyrinth of computer instrumentations in search of evidentiary material. Culling through vast stores of online information, veterans produce data for inclusion in ongoing investigations targeting child predators.
Upon completion of forensics training, wounded military vets are assigned to Homeland Security offices located in key cities around the country. Vets assigned to these federal sites undergo 40 weeks of field training administered by federal officials. In-tandem, federal law enforcers and military veterans conduct child sex-trade investigations. Cumulative case work is stored at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Cyber Crimes Center, the clearinghouse aggregating all the data largely distilled by wounded warriors. One can imagine the exorbitant amount of concentrated work-hours involved…just as one can revel in the life-saving results culminating in salvation of children.
In collaboration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and the non-profit National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT) developed the Child-Rescue Corps. Under the Homeland Security umbrella of agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spearheaded the investigative conglomerate which has achieved remarkable success, including providing significantly injured military veterans more heroic opportunities. Partnering with Homeland Security, the Wounded Warrior Project is a catalyst in terms of staffing the HERO program with…heroes, undeniably.
There are absolute win-win ratios from the HERO initiative. The federal government embraced the monumental national-scale dividends and enacted the program into law in May 2015.
In October 2016, the latest batch of 15 military veterans was sworn-in as federal agents. Recruits are military vets who sustained service-connected disabilities, yet possess valuable skill-sets to invest in national efforts to stem the tide of child exploitation. Military indoctrinations such as discipline, time-management, proficiency, and team cohesion are some of the highly valued traits the veterans bring to the table and use in the scope of their duties. Other than the law enforcement-specific protocols and policies, assimilation is easily and promptly established, given the closely related tenets, training and mission objectives of police (paramilitary) and U.S. Armed Forces.
Another Life-saving Dividend
As a retired police officer, I admire our federal law enforcement community embracing our nation’s wounded warriors. Replete with personal and professional insights, success stories such as this are far-reaching, especially to those who may have once dangled from a fraying thread. Often shunned, the discussion of human destruction infiltrates our core being. It should. It should also compel action. To do nothing is to aid and abet broken souls whose damage was incurred during service to our nation.
Paralleled in cops and soldiers, the stream of suicides persists. I see resolve in the HERO initiative to stave-off further self-inflicted casualties among law enforcers and soldiers. Camaraderie is an excellent salve.
In the HERO program are warriors whose souls have found another home, performing worthy tasks on behalf of unsuspecting children who wound-up in the crosshairs of perverted monsters.
The sense of belongingness and self-worth derived from involvement in a nationwide project serves as an elixir, perhaps relieving woeful emotions. Some of the Argonauts in the HERO program are amputees who sacrificed limb(s) in the course of warfare. Psychologically, that factor often equates to feelings of incompleteness. It is draining for an individual to encounter such overwhelming horror and abrupt change in life circumstances. I know. I am an amputee who left a leg in the clench of cancer. Life’s course alters significantly and the compass often feels too heavy.
Yet, my burdens dissolve when I am in the company of (or corresponding with) my brothers/sisters in uniform. Similarly, I am confident these military HEROs derive deep satisfaction from selflessly serving their nation once again, in all investigations, with every case closure, knowing each child is safeguarded from lurking monsters.
Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer.