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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I-Team Investigates Gangs In The Military

Response: Dept. Of Defense

10News I-Team Investigates Gangs In The Military

POSTED: 4:10 pm PDT October 30, 2008
UPDATED: 6:14 am PDT October 31, 2008

They endure grueling tests of strength, are trained to kill, and pledge their absolute loyalty."Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Mara Salvatrucha, 18th street, all the big ones are in," says Carter Smith, an Army veteran who spent 22 years in the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.American street gangs have gone global, and increasingly, they're in the service of Uncle Sam."There are a lot of them out there, already in the ranks," cautions Hunter Glass, a veteran and gang detective out of Nashville who now works as a consultant on gang behavior. The U.S. Air Force is among his clients.

Sailors, Marines, soldiers, even women, are flaunting their gang ties, while in uniform."In the combat zone, they will support each other, but as soon as they are off the battle field, all bets are off," says Glass.10News obtained video taken on base at Fort Bragg, which shows Bloods and Gangster Disciples on the dance floor. First they are throwing gang sings; then they throw punches.Glass spoke to the Army officer who took the video who was assaulted while taping it."There is nothing glamorous about being a gang member, "Glass says. "It's about money, it's about profit."He says gang members in the military have a sworn allegiance, not solely to the President of the United States, but to their gang set.

The initiations are brutal. 10News showed videotape of a jump-in, where gang members continuously beat a new recruit for six agonizing minutes. He has to take the beating. Once it's over, the gangsters' ritual includes a blessing over their newest member. Gangs in the military use the same initiation.

Carter Smith warns, "They'll actually send people into the military to be recruiters in the military."That's what T.J. Leyden did while serving for 3 years as a Marine at Camp Pendleton. Reformed now, he was then a racist and a leader of a white power gang."Everyone totally knew what I was doing," says Leyden. "And I recruited 12 active members of the United States military to join a white supremacy group."

It was a violent recruitment into a gang which cost Stephanie Cockrell her son, Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson."What did I do? What should I have done? What happened? What went wrong?" she still asks herself.Juwan Johnson grew up on the tough streets of Baltimore. His mother warned him over the years to say away from the gangsters hanging out on the corner. She never thought to repeat that warning when he joined the U.S. Army."

There are gangs here in the streets," she says. "But in the military? I was in the military, I don't remember a gang in the military!"She spent five years in the Army herself, and thought the experience would be a good one for her son. Sgt. Johnson spent 6 years in the Army and served 18 months in Iraq. His mom still watches the home video she took of him during a brief visit home."Thank you, and I love you all," he says on camera to his large extended family, during a family picnic.He had only two weeks left in the service when offers to join a gang swayed him. So he ended up in a park outside a base in Germany, where his life would end as he was "jumped in" to the Gangster Disciples. They beat him to death. Eleven soldiers and airmen took part."And after they beat him to death, they took him back to the barracks, and they went out to clubs to dance," exclaims Cockrell, with disbelief.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a drain on the U.S. military, forcing relaxation of standards, "moral waivers", to join. More service personnel have criminal records and gang ties than in years past." My concern is when they get out," adds Carter Smith.In the 1990's, while working as an Army criminal intelligence officer, he was one of the first to uncover the growth of street gangs in the ranks. He says the general estimate is that about 1 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces are gang members, 13,000 to 14,000 of them, roughly the population of Solana Beach."

They will have been trained to do lots of things from the basic support, logistics, and transportation, to the use of weapons," he warns. According to the National Gang Intelligence Center and the Army Criminal Investigation Command, "Gang related activity in the U.S. military is increasing ... posing a threat to law enforcement officials and national security." The gang activity ranges from graffiti you can see in pictures from Iraq, to shootouts and murder much closer to home."Crimes involving military soldiers have been on the rise, and violent crimes at that," says Hunter Glass.In San Diego, an ex-Marine marksman, Nathanial Guillen, and active member of the Bloods, shot a rival gang member to death in La Mesa. He was found guilty of murder in 2006.In Northern California, a Camp Pendleton Marine and gang member named Andres Raya ambushed police with military tactics and a high power riffle, murdering police Sgt. Howard Stevenson. Raya was killed in the shoot out.

Those are only two examples."They're gang members at heart, they're not going to be changing. It's what they live for, what they believe," says Glass.Officially, no branch of the service allows gangs. However, criminal courts are reducing felony charges to misdemeanors, allowing gangsters who promise to reform to join the military rather than go to prison.Glass adds, "Are they good in a fight? Yes that's right, but when dog fighting becomes illegal, what do you do with the dogs?"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Combating gang warfare

Saturday, 18 October 2008
Staff Writer
Gang-related activity in the U.S. military is increasing an Auglaize County Sheriff’s deputy says, and it is posing a threat to law enforcement officials and national security.
“Members of nearly every major street gang have been identified on both domestic and international installations, including the Bloods, Crips, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Hell’s Angels, Latin Kings and the Mexican Mafia,” Samuel Blank, a certified Gang Resistance, Education and Training (GREAT) officer, said. “Although gang activity is most prevalent in the Army, the Army Reserves and the National Guard, gang activity is also found throughout all branches of the military and its ranks, but is most common among the junior enlisted ranks.” According to a 2007 assessment by the National Gang Intelligence Center, the extent of gang presence in the armed services is often difficult to determine since many enlisted gang members conceal their gang affiliation and military authorities may not recognize the affiliation or may be inclined not to report such incidences. Due to this, the military enlistment of gang members could ultimately lead to a worldwide expansion of U.S.-based gangs.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division reported a modest increase in gang-related activity in the Army during the past several years. Of the 10,309 criminal inci-
dents they investigated in 2006, 16 were for gang-related offenses, an increase from four in 2003.
“There is only a small sub-group composed of gang members enlisting in the U.S. military today who are actually abusing their military training,” Blank said. “More than 95 percent of the military’s recruiters are joining the armed forces for the right reasons, to act in the best interest of their country.
“Overall, we are talking about small numbers here that have the potential to increase if law enforcement and military officers do not continue to grow wiser in understanding the measures that need to be taken to filter gang members out of the military and its branches,” he said.
There are a number of reasons why gang members enlist in the military today, Blank said.
“Some join to escape their current environment or gang lifestyle,” Blank said. “Others will enlist to receive weapons, combat and convoy training, to obtain access to weapons and explosives or as an alternative to incarceration. Once they are discharged, they may use their military training against law enforcement officials and rival gang members. This military training could result in more organized, sophisticated and deadly gangs, as well as an increase in deadly assaults on law enforcement officers.”
In 2007, the National Gang Intelligence Center stated that gang membership in the armed forces could disrupt order and discipline, increase criminal activity on and off military installations and compromise installation security and force protection.
Gang incidents involving active-duty personnel on or near U.S. military bases nationwide include drive-by shootings, assaults, robberies, drug distribution, weapons violations, domestic disturbances, vandalism, extortion and money laundering. Gangs have also been known to use active-duty service members to distribute their drugs.
The National Gang Intelligence Center also reported that military-trained gang members present an emerging threat to law enforcement officers patrolling the streets of U.S. cities. Both current and former gang-affiliated soldiers transfer their acquired military training and knowledge back to the community and use them against law enforcement officers, who are typically not trained to engage gangsters with military expertise.
“In bringing what they learn from the military back to the streets, gang members will not only send one of their gangsters with no criminal record into the armed serves to learn how to fight, but to also receive medical training,” Blank said. “In this way, the gangster will know how to self-medicate himself or other members of his gang in the event of a knife fight or a drive-by shooting. It is also important to note that gangs do not have to be from bigger cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York to be in existence.
“Just because we haven’t had any gang activity here in Auglaize County doesn’t mean that gang members or their sub-groups haven’t traveled through the area,” he said. “However, it’s always hard to tell who is passing through because gang members hide their affiliation with gangs exceptionally well.”
Gang members also have been known to enlist in the military by failing to report past criminal convictions or by using fraudulent documents, according to the National Gang Intelligence Center. In addition, some applicants enter the criminal justice system as juveniles and their criminal records are sealed and unavailable to recruiters performing criminal background investigations. Many military recruiters are not properly trained to recognize gang affiliation and unknowingly recruit gang members, particularly if the applicant has no criminal record or visible tattoos.
“Gang members commonly target dependent children of military personnel for recruitment,” Blank said. “Military children are considered potential candidates for gang membership because the transient nature of their families often makes them feel isolated, vulnerable and in need of companionship,”
With gang members reaching out to youth for recruitment purposes, Blank said he believes it’s important to educate the children of today about resisting the pressure to join a gang and how to avoid violence.
“Earlier this month, I visited the seventh-grade student body at the Wapakoneta Middle School and was asked by some teachers to give a presentation on gang membership and myths,” Blank said. “At the time, the students were reading ‘The Outsiders’ as an assignment for their language arts class. In tying the historical fiction together with gang membership, I educated the students on why youth fall into the peer pressures of joining gangs — to receive a sense of belonging.
“I also discussed how gangs are established, what gangs are popular today (such as the Bloods and the Crips), common gang myths, lifestyles of gang members and gang identifiers including locations, signs, colors and behaviors,” he said. “I think it’s important to educate the youth today about gangs and their activities because they need to know that no matter what the issue is, violence and destruction solves nothing, whether your part of a gang or not.”
Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 October 2008 )

for point of reference, this post is from a newspaper in Wapakoneta, OH, pretty far from any major military base, so I suspect this is second or third-hand information . . .

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Imprisoned vets tell their war stories for history

Interesting tidbits that contradict the notion that the military has ever been able to change the gang mindset:

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — As U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam in early 1974, Seaman Apprentice Frederic D. Jones was fighting his own battles.

The cocky Baltimore teenager spent nearly three months AWOL in the Philippines. There, he said, he played cat-and-mouse with shore patrol while fending off a murderous drug dealer, romancing the sister of a militia leader and robbing other servicemen to feed his heroin habit.

Eventually caught, Jones negotiated an honorable discharge but couldn't stay clean. An armed robbery spree in 1995 got him a 45-year sentence in the Maryland Correctional Institution near Hagerstown.

While Jones, now 52, is locked away from society, his war story has been preserved for posterity. He is among the first incarcerated veterans to tell his military service tale to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

Video recordings of more than 30 inmates at the medium-security prison are archived at the library's American Folklife Center, along with those of nearly 60,000 other veterans. Just one other prison, the Fairton Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, N.J., has collected veterans' stories, said Bob Patrick, director of the Veterans History Project.

Congress created the oral history program in 2000 to document the personal wartime experiences of American service members. The library doesn't try to verify their stories, but The Associated Press confirmed the service records of the inmates mentioned in this report.

Patrick said that by recognizing their roles in history, the project dignifies the service of veterans who take part. Jones was so proud of his videotape that he had a copy sent to his elderly mother.

"She was so overjoyed and surprised," he said.

Since any veteran, no matter how decorated or disgraced, can contribute to the archive, Jones' story was as welcome as that of any admiral. And it's hard to imagine one more colorful.

On his nearly 90-minute recording, Jones recounts his adventures as a "young, wild, impulsive," 18-year-old in and around the Subic Bay Naval Base. There, he said, a female gang called the Black Stockings helped him steal cash and watches from drunken sailors and aided him in avoiding a drug dealer he had wronged.

"I ended up getting a contract on my life," Jones says. "I felt like I had never left home."

Jones, who is black, said he enlisted in the Navy seeking structure and style — he liked the bell-bottomed uniforms — but he quickly grew disenchanted by the racism and drug use he found.

"I'd had my own preconceived ideas what the military was — I mean straight-up, strict discipline," Jones says on the video, made a year ago. "The drugs, the gang mentality — it was all right there in the military. It was a big letdown."

In a June interview with the AP, Jones said he doesn't blame the military for his mistakes but has found in prison the sort of discipline he had expected from the Navy. Behind bars, he and 58-year-old John E. Barba, who is serving a life sentence for robbing and murdering a methamphetamine maker, have become co-chairmen of the prison's veterans history committee.

Guided by materials from the Library of Congress, they have become such skilled interviewers since last fall that they and prison librarian Mary Stevanus, who spearheaded the history project, hope to produce a how-to booklet or video for other veterans groups, in or out of prison.

"What you're looking for is the meat of the stuff," said Barba, who served domestically in the Navy from 1970 to 1974. Working together, he and Jones conduct informal "pre-interviews" with their subjects, making notes of compelling material "so when they're giving their interview, we can dive in," Barba said.

They extracted a harrowing account from Ronald L. McClary, 62, of his experience under fire as a fresh-faced Marine in Vietnam. On his video, the burly inmate, seated before a large U.S. flag, recalls his daily "search-and-destroy" missions.

"Every day, you would look at one of your buddies and wonder who wasn't going home today or who was going to get killed today. Everybody knew it was going to be somebody," said McClary, who is serving 12 years for the second-degree murder of his wife in Baltimore 2005.

He recounted a firefight in which two buddies were killed.

"Three rounds went off. The first round hit Amos in the head. Amos fell. When Amos fell, Cope looked around and looked down at Amos. The second round hit Cope in the head. And I seen it. I told you, three rounds went off. Cope was to my left. Amos was to my left, and then there was me. You cannot tell me today the third round wasn't meant for me. But I was down. I was eating dirt."

Ordered by his lieutenant to get up and charge the enemy, McClary fired two shots before his gun jammed. "I had to get back down," he says on the video. "I've never been so scared in all my life."

Jones said he feels privileged hearing such stories.

"These guys have kept this stuff to themselves for 40 years," he said. "You'll see one guy that actually breaks down and cries. I mean, these are hardened criminals and he breaks down and cries on his video."

About 226,000 of the national's 25.1 million veterans were in prison or jail in 1998, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics' most recent report on the subject.

Matt Davison, chairman of an incarcerated veterans project for New York-based VietNow National, a veterans advocacy group, said most inmate vets he's met are proud of having served — and many feel remorse for having done something dishonorable.

Barba said most of the inmates he has interviewed for the history project express gratitude that they were able to serve.

In one video, white-haired World War II vet Lee D. Gerhold, doing 50 years for arranging an ex-wife's murder, grips his cane and says, "I'm thankful to the country for accepting me."