Operation Underground Railroad Leadership Team

Operation Underground Railroad

Founder & CEO, Tim Ballard

Timothy Ballard


Founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). He also serves as O.U.R.'s Jump Team Commander for rescue operations. Ballard began his career at the Central Intelligence Agency where he worked cases dealing with terrorism and Latin America. He has spent over a decade working as a Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security where he was assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and deployed as an undercover operative for the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team. He has worked every type of case imaginable in the fight to dismantle child trafficking rings. Ballard has worked undercover in the United States and in multiple foreign countries to infiltrate child trafficking organizations. In this effort he has successfully dismantled dozens of these organizations and rescued countless children from sex slavery. He is an expert at managing Internet investigations, particularly those dealing with file-share networks where pedophiles and traffickers go to trade in child pornography. He has trained hundreds of law enforcement officers at home and abroad in best practices to liberate children from sex slavery.

Ballard has been featured on many national news outlets to discuss his efforts to combat child trafficking. He has appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, The Meredith Vieira Show, CBS Nightly News, ABC Nightline, and CNN Headline News, MSNBC, The Glenn Beck Program, as well as many local news shows.

Ballard is the best-selling author of The Covenant: One Nation Under God and is the author of the sequel to that work, The Covenant, Lincoln, and The War. He has taught American and International Politics courses at Imperial Valley College, San Diego State University and American Heritage School. He has been featured regularly on both local and national TV and radio programs to discuss American history and politics and the role America has played in defending liberty at home and abroad. He has often commented on how his academic work in American history has provided him the inspiration and motivation to rescue children--to carry on the American tradition of liberating the captive. He recently received the distinguished George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.

After serving a church mission to Chile, Ballard graduated Cum Laude with a BA in Spanish and Political Science from Brigham Young University. He went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude with an MA in International Politics from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.


Ed Smart, Program Director, Rehab & Prevention

Ed Smart

Child safety advocate and President of the Surviving Parents Coalition, Ed Smart is an internationally recognized advocate for children's safety with particular focus on prevention, protecting children from “abduction, bullying, abuse and sexual assault.” His advocacy began as a result of the abduction and miraculous return of his daughter Elizabeth from their Utah home in 2002. Elizabeth's abduction motivated him to advocate for change in the safety of our children and families.

Since beginning his fight for children, Ed along with other children’s safety advocates tirelessly and successfully lobbied Congress and the Senate seeking passage of the National Amber Alert plan, the Adam Walsh Act, The Protect our children Act of 2008 and currently working cooperatively with other organizations on state felony arrestee DNA legislation.

He believes that “It is more important than ever to empower our children to know they have choices to options and to remove their fears and feel safer in their world today.” He is currently program director of rehabilitation and prevention for Operation Underground Railroad OUR.

Ed received his Masters Degree in Business Administration, specializing in Urban Planning as well as his Bachelor Degree in Finance from George Washington University. He and his wife Lois are parents of six children and currently reside in Salt Lake City.


Jerry Gowen, COO

Jerry Gowen

Served as an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University and Washington State University, teaching courses in communications, public relations, marketing, information technology and statistics.

Gowen earned his BA in Public Relations with a Minor in Business Management at Brigham Young University in 1998 and was recognized as the Outstanding Graduating Senior in Communications. He earned his MBA at Washington State University in 2010 and was presented with the Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement. Gowen is fluent in Spanish and resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife and 6 children. He is active in the community supporting the Boy Scouts of America and local youth soccer programs.


Michael Ottoman, Mission Intel

Michael Ottoman

 Joined the Operation Underground Railroad after a twelve-year career with the federal government, during which he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and US Department of State. While serving as an intelligence officer, he tracked issues related to chemical and biological weapons programs and proliferation, and counterterrorism against the homeland. He also analyzed the political transition in Iraq after the fall of Saddam, and subsequent US counter-insurgency efforts. At the CIA, Ottoman regularly provided short and long-term intelligence analysis to US Presidents, senior cabinet officials, and the National Security Council.

In his role as a Foreign Service Officer and diplomat, Ottoman served overseas tours in Madrid, Spain, Caracas, Venezuela, and Mexico City, Mexico, where he specialized in the fight against terrorism, illegal narcotics, organized crime, and human trafficking. During these overseas tours he organized and facilitated state and other official visits for President Obama, Vice President Biden, and then Secretary of State Rice.

Before his government career, Ottoman worked in television broadcasting, and later supported international schools in Luxembourg and Switzerland. He holds a B.A. in International Studies from Miami University in Oxford, OH, and a M.A. in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, where he first met OUR Founder and CEO Tim Ballard. Ottoman is married and has two daughters.


Mitch Turner, VP Rescue Operations

Mitch Turner

Former U.S. Navy SEAL with combat deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and multiple Deployments to Europe, training partner forces in: tactics, firearms handling with marksmanship, close quarter defense, mission and logistic planning and explosives training. Mitch has expertise in breaching, applied explosives, instructing applied tactics, teamwork, and administrative leadership. Graduate of Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training (BUD/S) and SEAL Qualification Training (SQT).

Prior to his Service In the U.S. Navy, Turner completed a two year Mormon mission to Louisiana. Then went on to receive a water polo scholarship to Brigham Young University-Hawaii. At BYU-Hawaii he studied exercise sports science.


Emily Evans, VP Donor Relations

Emily was born and raised in Southern California and runs the Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) Los Angeles office.

After receiving her Bachelors degree in Communications, Emily moved back to Los Angeles where she worked for several years as a Recruiter for Red Bull North America out of their headquarters in Santa Monica.

Emily became passionate about nonprofits when she had the opportunity to work with Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) on their yearly event, Stand Up to Cancer. She also spent time volunteering for Project PLAY!, a non-profit that provides funding for sports, music and art youth programs in Los Angeles.

As the current Director of Donor Relations and Events for Operation Underground Railroad, Emily has found her true passion in ending child sex slavery around the world. When she is not working she enjoys paddle boarding, hot yoga, music festivals and spending time with her husband and 2 King Charles Cavaliers.