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November 12, 2021Washington, DC, United StatesChild Exploitation

Military veterans train with HSI to become ‘HEROs’ in battle against child predators

WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) today announced that twenty-three military veterans have graduated from the eleventh class of the HERO Corps internship program. The program recruits, trains, and hires wounded, ill, or injured transitioning active-duty service members and military veterans for employment as computer forensic analysts.

“This program allows veterans to serve their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators,” said ICE Acting Deputy Director Patrick J. Lechleitner. “Working with HSI special agents, the HEROs assist with investigations, and help rescue child sexual assault victims – there are few more noble efforts for those who have dedicated their lives in service to this country and who want to continue to do so.”

The analysts support HSI field offices in the areas of child exploitation investigation, child victim identification, traveling child sex offenders, and digital forensics. The 2021 HERO class graduates recently completed an initial 13 weeks of HSI and computer forensics training. Following graduation, they will continue the one-year internship with nine months of hands-on training at HSI field offices across the country.

This is the 11th class to graduate since 2013, and the first since the pandemic, with veterans from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. Initially begun as a pilot initiative in 2013, the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative, or HERO Corps, program has trained more than 160 veterans in computer forensics and law enforcement support of child sexual exploitation investigations.

As forensics experts in an HSI office, daily activities of the HERO interns include disassembling suspect computers, imaging hard drives, running forensic software to carve and index data, and preparing that data for analysis by investigative agents.

While participating in the year-long internship, the HERO interns gain valuable and highly marketable job skills and certifications in computer forensics. Approximately 90 percent of those who have completed the HERO internship have been offered jobs with HSI field offices. To date, more than 80 percent of HERO program graduates are still working with HSI as computer forensic analysts.

The HERO Act, signed into law by President Obama on May 29, 2015, formalized and endorsed the HERO Corps program within ICE, administered by the HSI Cyber Crimes Center. Congress strengthened the HERO Program through passage of the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017, which improved the HERO program by making it a DHS agency-wide program, ensuring that the program is open to all branches of service members and providing pay for HERO interns.

The HERO Corps program is supported by numerous partners including the Department of Defense (DOD) warrior transition programs, Veteran Administration programs, and federal and state veteran employment agencies.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of Department of Homeland Security and a vital U.S. asset in combatting transnational crime and threats. HSI is recognized as a global leader in this investigative discipline, and is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong government and non-government partnerships to identify and rescue child victims, identify and apprehend offenders, prevent transnational child sexual abuse, and help make the internet a safer place for children.