Modern-day slavery: Spangdahlem recognizes National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kyle Cope
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Despite centuries of efforts to rid the world of slavery, it continues to exist today.

According to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking and forced labor generates $150 billion in profits annually from the enslavement of approximately 21 million people.  That is more profit than is made by Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Verizon and AT&T combined. All from 21 million people — about the population of the state of New York — in modern slavery. Human trafficking cases include sex trafficking of both adults and children, forced labor, and debt bondage, among others.

“Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry around the world and most of human trafficking is 80 percent sexual exploitation and 19 percent involves slavery or labor exploitations,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Goodwin, Spangdahlem Air Base Combatting Trafficking in Persons program manager.

On December 31, 2018, President Donald J. Trump proclaimed January 2019 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in an effort to highlight the need to combat the practice.

“Human trafficking harms adults and children of all ages and demographics,” said Trump in his December 31 proclamation. “Through force, fraud, and coercion, traffickers push their victims into demeaning forms of abuse, including domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. These crimes often remain hidden because victims are reluctant to seek help for a variety of reasons, including language barriers, fear of traffickers and law enforcement, and lack of trust. Human trafficking destroys precious lives and threatens our nation’s security, public health, and the rule of law. It is a scourge on the global community.”

The Global Slavery Index estimates that 403,000 and 167,000 people in the United States and Germany, respectively, are living in modern slavery.

The Air Force has its own program for CTIP governed by AFI 36-2921, which states that it is Air Force policy to deter activities of its members and personnel, domestically and overseas, that would support trafficking in persons. These activities include patronizing a prostitute even though such activities may be legal with a host nation country, forced labor, and debt bondage.

As Airmen stationed overseas, it is important that Spangdahlem Air Base members avoid situations where they might be supporting human trafficking.

“Airmen at Spangdahlem could inadvertently become involved in human trafficking by accidently or intentionally going into a brothel or nightclub that have trafficking occurring behind the scenes,” Goodwin said. “The military has a zero-tolerance policy for trafficking and the practice is morally wrong. It is important that the Spangdahlem community is aware of human trafficking so we can be aware of the signs and the appropriate measures that can be taken to help the victims of trafficking when an incident happens. In order to educate base Airmen, we have efforts such as the CTIP splash screen and we brief combating human trafficking at commander’s calls and at the newcomers brief. Airmen are able to get involved by reporting any activities they notice to leadership, Security Forces or the CTIP Hotline, and by completing the annual CTIP awareness training.”

Solicitation of a human trafficking victim and solicitation of a prostitute are both potentially punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“If an Airman at Spangdahlem was determined to have engaged in paying to have sex with a victim of human trafficking or even with a prostitute who was not a victim, we would very likely charge it under the UCMJ as a violation of Article 134 – Prostitution,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Christopher Pirog, 52nd Fighter Wing, Chief of Military Justice. “Situations likely to be implicated in a red light district or brothel setting would be 1) if a military member engaged in a sexual act with an individual, not their spouse, by paying that individual to engage in a sexual act; or 2) if a military member arranged or received payment for an individual to engage in a sexual act with another individual. The important thing to remember is that military members are subject to the UCMJ worldwide. Even if such an act is considered legal in a foreign country, that member still could face administrative or criminal action under the UCMJ.”

“As a nation, we cherish and uphold the notion that all people are created with inherent dignity and entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Trump said. “Modern slavery in all its manifestation is a blight on humanity and an affront to our fundamental values. We will not rest until we eradicate this evil.”

Anyone who suspects human trafficking can report it using the Department of Defense Inspector General Hotline: 1-800-424-9098 or