The H.E.R.O. Child-Rescue Corps



1. What is the H.E.R.O. Child-Rescue Corps?

The Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (H.E.R.O.) Child-Rescue Corps is a program designed to put military veterans (and transitioning service members) into new law enforcement careers as elite, highly trained counter-child-exploitation professionals. It is open to wounded, ill and injured U.S. military veterans and transitioning service members.

2. What does “H.E.R.O.” stand for?

Human Exploitation Rescue Operative.

3. Who is behind the HERO Corps?

The program was developed and is operated by the National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). It is therefore a unique partnership of government, military and nonprofit, supported and made possible by generous foundations, corporations and individuals in the private sector.

4. What kind of technical training or qualifications do I need for acceptance?

HERO Corps training includes intensive study of computers and digital forensics, followed by a 10-month internship in law enforcement as a computer forensics analyst. No advance experience with computers is required for admission to the program, but we are looking for individuals with an aptitude and interest in the field. In the past, some of our best students have had virtually no background with computers, while others arrived with specialized skills and experience.

5. What does the HERO Corps training consist of?

Each HERO Corps class undergoes an 12-week intensive training course, followed by a 10-month, unpaid law enforcement internship at a Homeland Security Investigations field office.

The first three weeks of classroom training is held by PROTECT and designed to give students a multi-disciplinary background to prepare them for their mission. Instructors are drawn from top national and international experts. Topics covered include the nature and magnitude of the child exploitation crisis, the impact of child trauma and abuse, the child protection system, the law enforcement landscape, child abuse prosecution and basic tools and strategies used by law enforcement to detect and interdict child exploitation. Students spend time with law enforcement veterans, visit a forensic lab and hear real-world case studies. Advance prep for CompTIA A+ certification is included. HEROs meet and hear from HERO alumni and learn about the Warrior Support Program.

For the next training phase, the class will move to Fairfax, VA, for eight weeks of classroom training conducted by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations’ Cyber Crimes Center (C3). This training begins with the most intensive 3 weeks of study, where students learn basic computer knowledge and are required to obtain CompTIA A+ certification. Training then focuses on digital forensics, utilizing AccessData Certified Examiners (ACE) and EnCase 1 trainers.

For the final week of initial training, PROTECT and C3 conduct a practical exercise bringing all the training together, giving each HERO a “real-world" experience before heading out into the field. Veteran law enforcement agents assist.

Upon completion of training, each HERO will be placed in an HSI field office for the 10-month law enforcement internship. During the internship, HEROs serve as computer forensic analysts (CFAs), doing actual casework (see below).

6. I understand this is a non-paid work experience. How can I afford to participate?

All expenses during the initial interview process and the 12 weeks of training are paid for by PROTECT, thanks to the generous support of foundations, corporations and individuals. This includes travel and transportation, lodging, meals, and the equipment needed for training and internships.

To cover expenses during the internship, many of our previous members used their retirement and/or disability pay, as well as VocRehab or GI Bill benefits to assist with housing and cost of living.

7. Is there any guarantee of employment following the internship?

No. However, PROTECT, ICE and SOCOM are all committed to assisting HEROs find employment. All graduates of our first HERO class were offered employment in federal law enforcement. State and local law enforcement agencies, as well as some other federal agencies, have expressed a strong desire to hire graduates of the HERO Corps. The demand for experienced specialists with digital forensic training in law enforcement is large and growing. In addition, HERO program participants graduate with valuable professional certifications and top-secret security clearances. Combining your military experience with these new computer forensics skills opens many opportunities in the law enforcement, government, public and private sectors.

8. Can I choose my location?

The official HERO job announcement lists field office locations available for internships around the U.S. We make every effort possible to allow participants to do their internships near home and family.

9. What is the work really like?

It is important to understand the answer to this question before making your decision to apply or enter the program. The HERO Corps is a gateway to a variety of law enforcement and child protection careers. Some graduates—depending on their physical abilities and career goals—might have an ultimate goal of becoming a law enforcement agent (or “gun carrier”). Careers as an agent can be pursued through federal agencies such as ICE/HSI or with state and local law enforcement agencies, such as ICAC Task Forces (and their affiliates).

Other participants will set their sights on a career that is more technology-focused, with computer forensics as a core skill set. In some law enforcement agencies, a computer forensic analyst (CFA) is separate and distinct from an investigator-agent, while in others, the roles of both are more intertwined. It is important to realize that even a specialized forensic analyst is positioned to do critical (and often the most substantial) investigative work, leading to the identification of new suspects, criminal networks and, most importantly, child victims.

Whichever career path interests you most, it is important to understand that this 10-month internship is for CFAs, supporting case investigators while learning the craft. HEROs participate in crime scene investigations (e.g., search warrants), where their knowledge and skills are crucial. However, as civilian interns, they cannot carry a gun or badge and do not participate in breach operations.

10. How do I know if I’m suited to the subject matter content in this work?

Law enforcement combats child sexual exploitation by tracking the flow of video and images “back through the Internet” to the door of a predator or his child victims. These images can be horrific, and if a law enforcement professional is not disturbed by viewing them, he or she should get out of the profession.

It’s important that you are fully aware of what child pornography is and is not. Many people mistakenly assume child pornography is comprised mainly of photos of naked children. The truth is that child pornography images and video are crime scene recordings, showing the rape and sadistic torture of children, including very often infants and toddlers. As a HERO, you will see horrific and deeply disturbing video and images on a regular basis. As candidates go through the screening and interview process, they will have opportunities to speak with officers who view this material and view redacted images first.

Some HERO alumni report that their prior exposure to atrocities in combat have prepared them mentally for this work. Some say knowing they are stopping a child predator or rescuing a child sustains them and makes the work easier. However, if you have a personal history of child sexual abuse or are wrestling with active PTSD of any kind (combat-related or childhood-related), you should give careful consideration to viewing images which might be triggering. PROTECT provides a free, 100% confidential counselor to our HEROs, who is on-call 24/7. ICE/HSI also has a peer-support program for professionals who view child abuse material.

11. What kind of pay can I expect for law enforcement jobs?

As explained above, there is no guaranteed employment upon completion of the HERO Corps program. However, computer forensic analysts in federal law enforcement can expect to move through GS levels 5/7 through 13 during approximately a five-year period. Those salary levels can be found here. State and local law enforcement salary ranges might start higher, but not climb as far as federal pay levels. They vary greatly by agency and region (we’ve heard interest in hiring HEROs anywhere from $35,000-$70,000).

12. How do I apply?

When the application is available, you will see an "Apply Now!" button at the top of this website. You will be required to complete the application at USAJobs and submit the required documentation at that time.

For additional information or questions not answered here, please contact:

General Information
National Association to Protect Children
(865) 525-0901

Voc Rehab Information
James Beard, HSI
(703) 293-9886