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News | Aug. 10, 2017

QA engineer deploys Afghanistan lessons in fight against human trafficking

By Tonya Johnson DCMA Public Affairs

Harvey Leake has seen up close the faces of human trafficking.

Leake, who is a quality assurance engineer in Defense Contract Management Agency’s Technical Directorate, deployed to Afghanistan from December 2015 to December 2016. During that time, he served as the Central Command’s Combating Trafficking in Persons program manager. Human trafficking includes a variety of violations, including prostitution, forced labor, not paying employees, and revoking visas or passports.

Leake deployed as a part of the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce program. This was his second deployment as a civilian employee. 

“I had previously deployed with DCMA Kuwait and had gained some valuable experience with CTIP surveillance during that tour,” said Leake. “As I learned from my previous deployment with DCMA Kuwait, we must ensure that anyone supporting the Department of Defense’s mission has a right to be treated with dignity and respect no matter who they are. I knew I could make a difference through training, experience and a passion for the people who support the mission.”

As the CTIP program manager, Leake ensured service members, civilians, indirect hires and contractor personnel supported and complied with the zero tolerance policy for human trafficking. While there, he kept the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense and CENTCOM leadership aware of human trafficking violations in Afghanistan.

Leake explained an example of human trafficking and its impact on the victim and her family. There was a woman with four children who worked for a contractor and had not been paid in six months. Leake said she was also the victim of an unlicensed recruiter who threatened her for payment of illegal recruitment fees.

“I was able to immediately cite the contractor for violations of CTIP requirements and ensured that she and other workers were properly paid immediately,” said Leake. “In addition, I was able to get the illegal recruiter barred from Afghanistan, which ended his threats and illegal activity. I will never forget her tears of joy from knowing all was made right for her. It was these types of events — making an impact in people’s lives daily — that I will never forget.”

While deployed, Leake worked with various agencies, including the Department of State, Army Criminal Investigative Division and the Department of Defense’s Inspector General.

“Often people were victims before they reached the work location,” said Leake. “There was no process for reaching out to the country of origin, so I developed a process with the Department of State that I could receive their assistance in contacting the Ministry of Labor in the victim’s country of origin in reporting CTIP events or emerging threats for migrant workers.

“This worked very well, and we had a constant exchange of information that greatly supported the process,” noted Leake. “I also worked with various nongovernmental organizations like the Internal Labor Organization and International Migrant Organization, which provided excellent information related to human trafficking.”

As Leake reflected on his experience, he said DCMA employees need to be aware that human trafficking is a worldwide problem.

“Awareness is the greatest asset in this fight, and at the same time, the greatest failing,” Leake stated. “Often the first thought we have when we hear the term ‘human trafficking’ is the sex trade or prostitution. That is one factor. Human trafficking touches every area of living with children and young women making up the majority of the victims.

“Human trafficking is one of the few areas where you have both government and nongovernment entities working together to fight this issues worldwide. Even in the U.S., we have people who are victimized through the promise of a better life. We are so unaware of how the products and services that support the mission may be from the service of victims of human trafficking. This is why awareness is so important for us all. This is everyone’s responsibility. This is how we win.”

According to Leake, the deployment made him a better DCMA employee.

“I would gladly serve in this position again,” he said. “I relied heavily on my contracting, quality assurance and engineering backgrounds in finding solutions to many of the issues I encountered.

“We often talk about the things in work that keep us up at night. With this position, it was the exact opposite. It was the thing that got me out of bed in the morning. Every day I was making a difference in people’s lives. It was the best experience in my 32 years with DCMA.”