Why I Joined the Jump Team
Editor’s note: The following is part of an interview with a member of Operation Underground Railroad’s Jump Team. He talks about some of his experiences and why he became a member of O.U.R.’s elite rescue squad.
I spent a long time in the military doing many different jobs including military operations, military police and then with law enforcement for a number of years with investigations and detective work, specifically dealing with child crimes, child deaths resulting in abuse or neglect.
While traveling, I was taking a trip from Nepal into India and then into Pakistan. I was waiting for my visa to cross from Nepal into India and a young girl, she must have been maybe 10 or 11, came up to me with a laminated piece of paper with photographs of what she has done with older western males and Indians, with sexual positions and prices underneath them. It just really broke my heart.
She had a tattoo branded on her neck. Another group of kids came over, all with the same tattoo. I later found out that this girl had been trafficked from Nepal. She was there on the border and controlled and restricted for the purposes of sex, typically for the truckers who get stuck at the border. That was my first real experience, despite traveling multiple places around the world, that was my first, in my face, this person is being trafficked, experience.
I returned from that trip and decided to apply to an NGO (non-governmental organization) that fights human trafficking. They were looking for two-week volunteers and I said to them, “What about six months to a year?” That NGO just didn’t have much of a budget and told me, ‘We can’t afford to pay you. You’d have to raise your own funds or come up with your own money.’
I sold my house, my car, my motorcycle, everything I owned, maxed out credit cards, and spent a year undercover voluntarily, out of my own money, in Southeast Asia. I worked with a group of guys from a former NGO that originally started anti-human trafficking about 10 years ago. It has since disbanded, but the remaining guys are kind of legends or the forefathers and beginners of undercover work for anti-human trafficking.
So those guys kind of took me under their wing and taught me throughout Southeast Asia and India and through Africa. That’s how that all got started. Money ran out. I’d been away from home for a long time and came back to the States and kind of debated whether to go back into law enforcement or find another NGO that could support me financially to be able to go back over there and continue doing the work.
O.U.R. was looking and reaching out to other NGOs about what their capabilities were to assist or partner with them in different parts of the world. I was very up front and frank about how things operate, which is very different from how they operate in Central and South America.
O.U.R. has had very good success in Latin America and that’s been amazing. Each country and trafficking culture is different and you must adapt how you combat traffickers and how you work undercover specific to the characteristics of each location. There are a lot of considerations as far as cultural, political, language barriers, faith base, a number of different factors that make each location unique.
I wanted to assist O.U.R. by expanding into different parts of the world, and they convinced me to help take them to Southeast Asia, into Thailand and Cambodia, which actually helped because I was being asked to come back by their government to rescue a few Cambodian girls. So, we did make a trip out there and exposed some of the other operatives to how undercover work is done there and how sex tourism is so popular in Southeast Asia. It was a great rescue mission and a great opportunity for O.U.R. to expand into a country that needs their help.
I do not think I could do any other type of work. Every time I go home I think of all the children out there no one is looking for. I think to myself, someone has to be out there looking for those kids. They have no voice to be heard. The cause seems so overwhelming and there are so many children enslaved in this world but whether we rescue one or one hundred, it matters to each and every individual whose life is changed. That is why I keep doing this.
I do not know what has happened to that little girl in Nepal. Since I’ve been in this industry, in this position with O.U.R, personally, within my heart I want to do this work until I can find that girl. There have been many girls, boys, children, lost souls, but that’s the one that keeps me up at night. The one I want to find.