FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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 who meet criteria set by the National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT).
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. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the U.S. Department of Defense. 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 9-month internship in law enforcement as a computer forensics analyst (CFA). 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 a 12-week intensive training course, followed by a 9-month 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, work with forensic experts, 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 moves to Fairfax, VA, for nine weeks of classroom training conducted by Homeland Security Investigations’ Cyber Crimes Center (C3). This training involves intensive study, where students learn basic computer knowledge and are required to obtain CompTIA A+certification. Training then focuses on digital forensics, followed by a week-long, practical exercise designed to bring all the training together, giving each HERO an "real-world" experience before heading out into the field. Veteran law enforcement agents assist.
Upon completion of training, each HERO will be placed in a HSI field office for the 9-month, paid law enforcement internship. During the internship, HEROs serve as computer forensic analysts (CFAs), doing actual casework (see below).
6. Is there any financial cost for me to participate in the training?
All expenses during the 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. During the field internships, participants are paid by HSI at the GS 5-7 level.
7. Is there any guarantee of employment following the internship?
No, there is no guarantee of employment. However, the vast majority of HEROs who have successfully completed their internship have gained valuable employment, within federal, state, and local law enforcement, government, and private and public sectors. The demand for experienced specialists with digital forensic training is large and growing. Additionally, HERO program participants graduate with valuable professional experience and top-secret security clearances.
8. Can I choose my location?
Each HERO job announcement lists field office locations available for internships around the U.S., which is determined by the need within HSI. We make every effort possible to allow participants to do their internships near home and family.
9. What does the program prepare me for?
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. Other participants prefer to pursue a career that is more technology-focused, with computer forensics as a core skill set. Some choose to pursue a career in the non-profit and advocacy arenas.
Whichever career path interests you most, it is important to understand that this 9-month internship is for computer forensic analysts (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. They also view graphic child abuse imagery almost daily during the course of conducting computer forensics, which is not for everyone.
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 not be doing this type of work.
It’s important that you are fully aware of what child abuse imagery (or "child pornography") is and is not. Many people mistakenly assume child abuse imagery 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, very often including 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 carefully consider that viewing these images might be triggering. PROTECT provides a free, 100% confidential counselor to our HEROs, who is on-call 24/7. 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.
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 a screening process and full application, as well as provide necessary documentation.
For additional information or questions not answered here, please contact:
National Association to Protect Children
Homeland Security Investigations
HERO Program Manager
Chris Moore, HSI