According to the FBI, the U.S. military is facing a “significant criminal threat” from gangs, including prison and biker gangs, who have been inducted into every branch of the armed forces–a large percentage having been identified within the Army, Army Reserves, and Army National Guard.
It appears that some of the gang members join the military to escape the streets, but once in, they remain affiliated. Others are said to specifically target the armed forces to receive combat and weapons training, according to the National Gang Intelligence Center’s 2011 publication, National Gang Threat Assessment/Emerging Trends.
“Gang members with military training pose a unique threat to law enforcement personnel because of their distinctive weapons and combat training skills and their ability to transfer these skills to fellow gang members,” the report states.
The NGIC is a multi-agency operation headed up by the FBI to bring together intelligence on gangs and gang activity. Just two years ago, their report listed 19 gangs said to include military-trained members, compared to the current publication which names close to 50. In the past three years, law enforcement officials in more than 100 jurisdictions have encountered, detained or arrested a gang member who was on active-duty or was a former service member.
Younger gang members are reportedly joining the military before they acquire a criminal record, and are concealing their gang affiliation during the recruitment process.
Gang members and dependents have found their way onto U.S. military bases from Japan to Germany and are present in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the center found gang graffiti on military vehicles.
The report also notes the cases of three former Marines arrested in Los Angeles for selling illegal assault weapons to the Florencia 13 gang. A U.S. Navy SEAL was charged in Colorado with smuggling machine guns and other weapons from Iraq and Afghanistan into the U.S.
The report warns, “Gang members armed with high-powered weapons and knowledge and expertise acquired from employment in law enforcement, corrections or the military may pose an increasing nationwide threat, as they employ these tactics and weapons against law enforcem4nt officials, rival gang members and civilians.” —kathleen cross