A small graduation ceremony inside a federal office building in Washington was militaristic Friday morning.
For a fifth year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has trained a small team of injured military veterans as analysts on child exploitation cases.
Analysts who will be able to take photos of a hard drive in a child pornography investigation and help identify the offenders and build the case for an arrest.
Through the Child-Rescue Corps, since 2013, more than 100 veterans have learned computer forensics, an 11-week program followed by an almost year-long internship in ICE field offices across the country.
Chris Wooten, a U.S. Army ranger injured in a helicopter crash seven years ago while serving with a special operations troop in Afghanistan, felt like the program could bring back the sense of purpose and pride he felt while serving in the military. And with a good reason.
“I did have a lot of buddies who weren’t able to make it home, that were killed overseas or even individuals that took their own lives when they made it back just because they didn’t have that sense of purpose anymore. I think this opportunity, even though we’re all wounded and can’t do our military job anymore, that this program allows us to serve our country again, and not only that but help save some kids.” – says Wooten.
It’s unpaid work the first year, working alongside agents to find suspects and build the cases, often looking at graphic, violent content for clues about the perpetrator, the victim, or even the location. But the program regularly leads to job offers from ICE, according to an agency spokesman – reports Voice of America.
ICE posted three major updates on three cases:
- Tucson man sentenced to 10 years in prison for possessing and distributing child pornography
- Idaho man sentenced to 25 years on federal child pornography charges
- Southwest Texas man sentenced to nearly 16 years in federal prison for distributing child pornography
“It’s daunting to see case after case after case… when you see 100-year sentences or multiple life sentences. Unfortunately, it’s still not enough. It’s certainly not tipping the scale to dissuade people who abuse children.”- says Daniel Ragsdale, deputy director at ICE, as reported by Voice of America.
Wooten, who was chosen to speak for the class at the ceremony, spoke about friends who died in combat or after returning home, about scars both visible, and invisible, he spoke about the burden of doing paperwork after an injury and not being able to go back on the field, while his voice was trembling throughout.
He himself is a father of 5 children at 29, so this program not only gives him pride, purpose, and a great honor to be a part of but also the possibility to make a difference he couldn’t, doing paperwork only.