Military veterans help fight war against child pornography

Cpl. Justin Gaertner from New Port Richey, Fla training for the 2012 Warrior Games. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Heidi Agostini

As a combat engineer sent to Afghanistan to find roadside bombs, Cpl. Justin Gaertner lost his legs when he was sweeping a field so that an evacuation helicopter could safely land.

According to Yahoo News, Gaertner tried to go back to Afghanistan after he recovered, but the military refused his request.

Last month, however, Gaertner became one of 22 more military veterans sworn into the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Corps in Washington. The goal of the operation is to use the skills learned in combat against another target: child pornography.

Recruits to the HERO corps will have the task of collecting and analyzing the massive amounts of computer data that exist in cellphones, hard drives, thumb drives, laptops, and DVDs to find information that can be used to prosecute child pornographers.

Tamara Spicer, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Florida, said, “This program fit a desperate need in the investigative process.”

“The HERO Corps is beautiful in its simplicity.  It takes those of you who were born to serve and whose careers were cut short for reasons beyond your control and allows you to reapply your gifts. As a mother of two girls I love more than anything …You do great stuff,” said Laura Junor, deputy undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

Some parts of the job can be just as horrific as what the recruits of the HERO Corps were up against in the military. Gaertner says he has already seen things that he will always remember.

The military veterans attend three weeks of training given by the National Association to Protect Children. A social worker teaches the vets about child abuse and trauma, and how to deal with stress. Members are then assigned to work in field offices all over the country.

Gaertner recently participated in a prosecution that helped bring down a child pornography ring with 130 victims and 28,000 graphics that the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children had never cataloged.

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