28th LRS leads way in combatting human trafficking

  • Published
  • By 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron
  • 28th Bomb Wing
Most people think human trafficking is something that happens in foreign countries, but it happens right here in South Dakota too. 

With January being recognized as Combating Trafficking in Persons Awareness Month, the 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron's vehicle operators are committed to doing everything they can to combat human trafficking.

Vehicle operators are leading the way by teaming up with "Truckers against Trafficking," a national non-profit organization based in Colorado that is working with the trucking industry to help truck drivers and truck stop employees recognize potential trafficking victims. Their training is specific to the trucking industry and augments the Department of Defense's Combating Trafficking in Persons training.

"Human trafficking, while illegal, is a booming $32 billion business, second only to the drug trafficking industry," said Senior Master Sgt. André KillKelley, 28th LRS deployment and distribution flight superintendent. "A large percentage of the people trafficked are women and children. They are people prostituted on the streets, at interstate rest areas, and at legitimate businesses, such as truck stops and motels."

This crime has been reported in all 50 states, and the yearly number of young people at risk of becoming victims in our country is estimated to be between 100,000 and 300,000.

"As Airmen, we are a 'mobile community' with family and friends residing across our nation," KillKelley stated. "When we travel, we have an opportunity to identify persons being trafficked and an obligation to rescue these victims by breaking the human supply chain." 

Airman 1st Class Samantha Lewis, 28th LRS vehicle operations instructor and liaison for Truckers against Trafficking added, "while at a truck stop or rest area, you can help victims of human trafficking since you may be the only outsider with the opportunity to speak with a victim. A victim of trafficking may look like many of the people you see every day at the rest area or while refueling your vehicle at a truck stop."

KillKelley adds they encourage everyone to learn more about this hideous crime and to become vigilant when on our nations roadways.

"Please don't make assumptions about potential prostitution involving underage children, specifically at rest areas or truck stops," he encouraged. "They didn't get into the situations they're in by themselves. They are someone's child, grandchild, or sibling that someone is probably trying to find. Put yourself in their shoes and make a call if the situation doesn't look right. It could very well be the difference between life and death for the victim."

One way Airmen can identify trafficking victims is by looking beneath the surface, Lewis said. This includes watching for bruises or other signs of battery and hanging out at truck stops or rest areas without adult supervision.

"The victims at [these areas] are normally young girls traveling alone or with one other girl, walking through the parking lots, and going from vehicle to vehicle," Lewis said. "Although they may appear to be alone or with another girl, they are usually being watched by their nearby handler."

As a member of the Armed Forces you are obligated to contact law enforcement if you believe you have identified a trafficked person.

If you think you have met a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888. This hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking and will identify local resources available to help victims. 

For more information on human trafficking, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website at www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.

DISCLAIMER: The appearance of names of outside organizations does not constitute endorsement by Ellsworth AFB, Air Force Global Strike Command, the United States Air Force, or the Department of Defense, of the external organizations, or the information, products or services contained therein.