Twelve military veterans graduated from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Child Rescue Corps program during a ceremony Sept. 13 at ICE Headquarters. This year’s class is composed of U.S. Army, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marine Corps veterans from Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Florida, South Carolina, and Ohio.
The HERO Corps program recruits and trains wounded, ill, or injured active-duty service members, transitioning active-duty service members, and military veterans for employment to support law enforcement in the areas of child exploitation investigations, child victim identification, traveling child sex offenders, and digital forensics. This program is a one-year internship, which includes a three-month initial training followed by a nine-month hands-on training in ICE field offices nationwide.
“The HERO Corps program showcases the critical cooperation between HSI, PROTECT, and U.S. Special Operations Command to combat child sexual exploitation,” said Alysa D. Erichs, ICE Acting Executive Associate Director for HSI. “There are few people better qualified to safeguard our nation’s youth than American veterans.”
“We are grateful and blessed to have these exceptional individuals join HSI to help execute one of the most important missions; the pursuit and arrest of child predators and the rescue of victims of these terrible acts,” Erichs emphasized.
HSI HERO graduates represent the tenth graduating class of this program. Each of them have successfully completed the initial three-month training in computer forensics and law enforcement support, and will now transition to ICE field offices across the nation to begin their hands-on experience.
“Investigating child sexual exploitation is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding missions [one] can undertake for this agency,” Erichs told the HERO graduates and their supporters. “Make no mistake – you are joining a team here at HSI that is working around-the-clock to rescue innocence and bring evil to justice.”
On average, HSI arrests seven child predators and processes 17 terabytes of data every day. Since 2003, HSI has initiated more than 40,000 cases globally, arrested more than 15,000 child predators, and identified and recued more than 5,000 child victims.
Erichs told attendees that even one child victim is one too many.
“Unfortunately, crimes against children occur every hour of every day,” she added. “Innocent children who deserve a happy home and safe community in which to simply be a kid, are victimized and have their lives forever changed.”