Battlefield vets wounded in the line of duty are now able to continue their mission by training to become forensic investigators through an innovative free program with the National Association to Protect Children, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Department of Homeland Security.
It's called the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) program.
"Veterans are ideal candidates for this program, even without any formal training or college," said Joseph Dyer, a disabled Navy veteran and computer forensic investigator with the HERO corps. "We're trained to perform our best in high-stress situations and understand the importance of the mission."
The HERO program provides training to veterans in high-tech computer forensics and law enforcement skills so they're equipped to assist federal agents in the fight against online child sexual exploitation, as well as identity and benefits, document fraud, money laundering, and other crimes.
Veterans attend three weeks of training to understand the impact of the child exploitation crimes and then eight weeks of training in computer forensic analysis and digital evidence collection.
After completing the training, the vets serve as interns in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices nationwide and, upon graduation from the HERO program, they have the knowledge, skills and experience in the field of computer forensics to apply for careers with federal, state and local police agencies and other organizations.
Helping convict criminals and being part of a team that's doing important work to keep children and citizens safe are just two of the reasons Dyer said he loves his job.
But HERO investigators also do a lot of work no one knows about, he said. They are responsible for helping enforce more than 400 statutes and laws on domestic soil while also doing prevention work internationally.
Dyer often encounters identity and benefit document fraud, money laundering and child pornography, among other material, he said.
"When we get someone's computer, we have their whole life from A to Z," he said. "You see their good memories as well as the bad they've done. You get a snapshot of their life, and some of the material is stomach-turning. It gets grueling at times. But as a veteran, we're used to handling difficult situations."
Not all the work is done behind a computer screen, he said. The veterans often go with agents and conduct their investigation on site in the field.
"We work to protect the citizens of the United States, and it makes me feel good. There are so many bad people out there, specifically child predators, and we're here to protect children. And it's a job I take seriously," he said.
The HERO Child Rescue Corps is a force in the global battle against child exploitation and abuse, and it is looking for disabled veterans to continue its mission to help keep America safe.
To learn more or to apply to the program, visit HERO Corps.