Douglas “Dutch” Turley of San Clemente is no stranger to danger. He is a leader with Operation Underground Railroad, a team that rescues kidnapped children from sex slavery around the world.
Turley, described by colleagues as a former Navy SEAL whose expertise is vital to O.U.R.’s mission, will be among the featured guests at O.U.R.’s fundraising gala at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Laguna Cliffs Marriot in Dana Point.
We asked him what it’s like saving children:
Q. How did you come to be a rescuer of enslaved children?
A. I have known O.U.R. CEO and Founder Tim Ballard for years through our government careers. We kept in close touch and one day Tim called to tell me that he was leaving Homeland Security and had an idea to create a private organization whose focus was to rescue children who were being force into sex slavery. I told him I was all in.
Q. How does it compare?
A. This is different from what SEALs generally do. Tim brought me up to speed on the unique details of this type of operation and the methods that we wanted to use. We typically go undercover to play the role of the American businessman traveling to purchase sex with children. Sex trafficking is an estimated $32 billion industry. We have little difficulty finding traffickers to offer us children for sex. Fortunately this has not been a significantly risky or combative approach. Our Jump Team is very skilled in keeping cover and disciplined focus. Our team must have a strong warrior mindset to create a persona that would put them in the character of evil. It is my job to ensure each of our jump team members are expertly trained and prepared to handle any situation we encounter while on a rescue mission.
Ultimately, it is very different from my time with the SEAL teams, but there are also many similarities, which my highly skilled training has prepared me for. I have to say that this work with O.U.R. is the most rewarding work I have ever done. I am still fighting bad guys, but I am seeing children rescued and that is an unbelievable feeling of pride and hope.
Q. How many missions?
A. O.U.R. Has rescued an estimated 300-plus victims and assisting with some 60 arrests. We have operated in 13 countries so far and plan to expand. What’s amazing is that in many of these countries, including the U.S., we have formed strong partnerships with these agencies who can now replicate the O.U.R. method and approach and they have continued to rescue victims, arrest perpetrators and impact the ease at which traffickers are doing business in their local communities. The continued effort is not represented in our statistics, but the change is being felt.
Q. Describe how it works.
A. O.U.R. develops intelligence on situations involving child sex trafficking and connects that intel with vetted agents. Each situation and location varies a little in details and approach.
While gathering intel, we also investigate the local process of handling victim services and recovery. We work to ensure that the victims are given the best opportunity and access to support and hope. All of this is developed prior to the rescue mission. If we don’t have a place set up for the children to go after they are rescued, we won’t do the rescue mission.
After an operation, we will stay on top of both the prosecution of the criminals and also the well-being of the children and do follow-up missions to visit the children and provide support and funds to aid in their recovery.
Q. What was the worst condition you encountered?
A. A. We shut down an orphanage in Haiti that was selling children out the back door for $10,000 each. Initially, I was so taken back that these women running the orphanage would do something like this. The situation these children were in is incomprehensible.No clothing, no beds – they slept on the cement floor. They ate flour and water.
We rescued 28 children in one day and placed them in reputable home. We did a follow-up mission only a few months later and visited the kids. This time, they weren’t scared and sad, but healthy and smiling. I was able to spend an afternoon with them delivering toys and playing games with them. It was an unbelievable feeling to know that only a few months ago they were in a dark place that could have potentially lead to a darker life. They were now so happy with light in their eyes. That’s the most amazing thing about my job. We saved 28 kids. To just change one child’s life is the most rewarding gift in the world.
Q. Does this take an emotional toll?
A. Of course it does. However, I am too invested in this cause to turn away from it now. This is the most important work I will ever do during my life.
Q. What do you do in San Clemente, outside of this?
A. I have an amazing family who I love spending time with when I’m not working. I love surfing, doing CrossFit and staying in shape. I will be racing in an Ironman in 2016 to raise awareness and funds for O.U.R. Orange County’s Premier Tri team ProEco is taking me under their wing and helping with the Ironman that I will be racing in. I am trying to raise $1,000 for every mile of the Ironman, which is 140.6 miles. My goal is to raise $140,600 to rescue children. I have a very active lifestyle and that’s what makes me happy.