The Gangfighters Network is an organization designed to bridge the gap between academia and the criminal justice professions. For more information, visit and The focus is on gangs, initially adult gangs as it appears they have been ignored or absorbed into the mainstream society. There's a special focus on gang members in the military.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Army apologizes to Guardsmen over tattoos

Scripps Howard News Service
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Though they say it's a year late, New Mexico National Guard members are glad to receive an apology for the Army's investigation into alleged gang tattoos while they served in Kuwait.

The apology arrived in a letter Monday from Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson, the head of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command. Members of the command carried out the probe, which included a partial strip search, on the New Mexico soldiers, Guard spokesman Maj. Ken Nava said.

Johnson writes "to personally apologize" in his letter. He writes that when he learned the "situation had caused one of you to state that you 'didn't feel like an American today,' I knew that this investigation had been gravely mishandled."

Nava said the apology is welcome, even though it comes a year after the incident.

"Our general called for an apology when it happened in 2006. Here we are a year later," Nava said.

The May 2006 search of 60 members of the New Mexico unit was prompted by a soldier's report that he had seen Chicago-area gang tattoos on a Hispanic soldier. The Hispanic soldier was not from New Mexico, and it was never explained what led an investigator to the New Mexico unit.

The New Mexico Guard members were ordered to take off their clothes down to athletic shorts and were looked over for gang tattoos. No tattoos were found.

Though the investigator who conducted the search has been cleared of any illegal action, Johnson issued the formal apology.

Adjutant Gen. Kenny Montoya, commander of the New Mexico Guard, had immediately called the search racially motivated and illegal. He asked for an apology and called for the removal of some top Army leaders.

"In the Army, if you apologize, it means you take responsibility for something," Montoya said in April. "Somewhere along the line, general officers forgot that's part of their responsibility."

The 60 New Mexicans who were searched were members of Task Force Cobra, a 190-member collection of members from various New Mexico units that provided convoy security in Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar from November 2005 to November 2006.

The search occurred after the unit had returned to Kuwait from a stint in Iraq.

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