Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Socom's HEROs Combat Human Trafficking to Save Children Around the Globe

By Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2, 2018 — January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and the Defense Department has teams who work year-round to combat these crimes worldwide.

The Human Exploitation Rescue Operative, or HERO, Child-Rescue Corps is a program developed by U.S. Special Operations Command, Warrior Care Program-Career Transition, the National Association to Protect Children and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Army Col. Kimberly Moros, chief of Socom's career transition initiatives.

“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,” she 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.”

Since 2013, more than 130 veterans and transitioning service members have entered the HERO program. Of the successful graduates, 74 have been offered careers in federal law enforcement and another 31 are in internships, Moros said.

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

Human Trafficking

“Human trafficking includes using force, fraud or coercion to compel a person to provide labor, services or sex. It’s a violation of basic human rights,” said Linda Dixon, DoD Combating Trafficking in Persons Office Program Manager. “Combating trafficking in persons is a duty that DoD takes seriously as we do in other situations that bring harm to our nation. It is a global concern, and our goal is to educate every member of DoD on how to recognize and report human trafficking in the U.S. as well as around the world.”

The three most common forms of trafficking, according to DoD's Combating Trafficking in Persons office, are forced labor, sex trafficking, and child soldiering.

Moros said the idea behind the HERO Corps is a simple one.

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

She said the HERO Child-Rescue Corps save children in several ways. “As law enforcement first responders, they are at every crime scene, searching for critical clues that might provide evidence for an arrest or to find a victim,” Moros said.

Back at the forensic lab, the HERO is the lead digital investigator, searching out clues that can lead to organized criminal rings, evidence of sexual assault or production of child abuse imagery, she said.

“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 added.

Kurtz said federal law enforcement is just beginning to track rescues. In 2016, Homeland Security Investigations identified and rescued 820 known child victims from sexual exploitation.

“But the real number is undoubtedly many times greater,” Moros said. “As a major segment of the digital forensic workforce, and one especially dedicated to combatting child sexual exploitation and trafficking, they have been instrumental in working hundreds of those cases.”

Aircrew Flight Equipment Team Provides Essential Safety for Flyers

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Vicky Spesard 123rd Airlift Wing

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Jan. 2, 2018 — From the bottom of the pack to the top of the canopy, line by line, inch by inch, touching every seam, stitch and grommet, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Brawner painstakingly examines a parachute for anything that might make the lifesaving equipment not function properly.

Brawner, an aircrew flight equipment journeyman with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Operations Support Squadron here, knows what is at stake if the parachute doesn’t work -- the life of a fellow airman.

Aircrew members depend on Brawner and the aircrew flight equipment team to support them from behind the scenes. The team’s mission is to inspect and repair the equipment carried aboard aircraft to be used in the event of a bailout or crash landing.

“Our job in this shop is to maintain the integrity of every piece of safety and survival equipment that goes on the aircraft here,” explained Brawner, who has worked on parachutes and other related survival gear for many years. “All of us here understand that if an aircrew member has to use our equipment, they are already having a bad day; we don’t want to add to that by giving them equipment that doesn’t deploy properly.”


The equipment that the team manages is extensive. From rubber rafts, life preservers and helmets, all the way down to the bandages in the survival kit and the glint tape applied to aircrew uniforms, there are more than 22,000 items that the 15 aircrew flight equipment personnel must be knowledgeable about and adept at repairing.

Their skills include the ability to sew with a machine; darn by hand; patch various materials using specialized adhesives; clean and maintain optical equipment; clean and repair chemical suits; test locater beacons, radios and batteries; and even wash each aircrew member’s oxygen equipment by hand.

“Every single item that we are responsible for has a mandated lifecycle, inspection and maintenance schedule,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Michael Hilbert, the superintendent of the aircrew flight equipment team. “But in our shop, we go beyond what is required by the Air Force and we inspect equipment that we place on the aircraft much more often.

“Our job is to provide the aircrew with the equipment that will get them out of the aircraft safely, survive in whatever the environment on the ground is and return home,” he continued. “We know these guys -- all of the aircrew members here. Everything we do, down to the smallest detail, is with the mindset to have our equipment ready when they need it the most.”

This attention to detail and the team’s dedication to the mission is what instills trust within the aircrews, according to Air Force Lt. Col. David Flynn, the 165th Airlift Squadron commander.

“If we have an in-flight emergency, our aircrews' lives depend on the proper functionality of all emergency equipment on board the aircraft,” Flynn said.

“The personnel from aircrew flight equipment are our lifeline in an emergency situation in the aircraft. They are an extremely dedicated group of people and we, as aircrew, know we can trust them with our lives. They do an incredible job."