'A new mission:' Veterans asked to apply for internship to help battle child predators

When it comes to fighting child exploitation, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is looking for a certain specialist to help get the job done.

In a Fox 32 News special report, Natalie Bomke details just who they’re looking for. You may know someone who could be the key to cracking these cases.

Brett Mango, a computer forensic analyst, and his service dog Grunt have been working for HSI for about four years now.

"I have a new purpose. A new mission," Brett said.

This job wasn’t Brett’s first career choice. He joined the Army in 1994 right after high school.

After two tours and 13 years with the Army, Brett retired from the military in 2014. He was injured while serving in the Middle East.

"When you get hurt and you are out of the military, you kind of lose yourself a little bit," Brett said.

Even though Brett’s military career ended, he's a different kind of hero now.

"It’s hard but it’s rewarding. When you save a kid, you do something with national security where you’re saving your country, I mean there’s nothing better than that," Brett said.

Brett is part of HSI’s HERO program, also known as the Human Exploitation Rescue Operation Child-Rescue Corps.

"We’re not a nine to five operation. You have to be ready to work when the victims need the help or the perpetrators are identified," said Sean Fitzgerald, HSI Chicago Special Agent in Charge. "We find these wounded warriors step right into that role seamlessly."

Fitzgerald says when wounded warriors apply and go through this internship, they will develop the skills to become a computer forensic analyst - a skill set HSI needs more of to help track down child predators.

"Looking at chat logs, exploring the dark web to find internet portals or websites advertising some pretty heinous graphics and opportunities to exploit children," Fitzgerald said.

There are two parts to this paid internship program. The first part takes place at HSI’s Cyber Crime training center in Fairfax, Virginia for 13 weeks.

After that, interns spend the next nine months embedded at a local HSI field office assisting special agents on child exploitation cases.

If you graduate from the program, HSI may offer you a permanent position.

"It’s really meant to be a program that can transition our wounded warriors from a military background into a civilian background," Fitzgerald said.

Of the 175 veterans who have enrolled in the program so far, 135 were offered full-time positions with HSI.

"This job is perfectly fit for veterans because we’re self-starters. We’re self-motivated," Brett said. "We’re great team players. So we know how to work off of each other and I think that makes us elite among others."

You don’t need to have advanced computer skills to apply.

If you are interested or know someone who might be, you can apply online at ICE.gov/HERO. The deadline to apply is Feb. 6.