While doing my usual perusal of military blogs I came across this post at This Ain’t Hell that talked about this Washington Examiner article which was about this FBI report on gangs. You following me? The article is pretty sensational, talking about gangs “infiltrating” the U.S. miltary where they learn skills they can bring back to their gangs and use in various gang-related (underrated movie) activities.
Now I haven’t been in the Army that long but I haven’t seen anything that struck me as gang-like in my almost two years of service (neither have people who’ve been in a lot longer). The idea that the military in general and the Army specifically were being inundated with gang members seemed like a stretch so I clicked thru to the FBI report and started reading. I skipped to the section dealing with gangs and the military (who has the time to read the whole thing?) and was decidedly underwhelmed.
There was a lot of talking about how bad it would be for gang members to acquire the skills taught by the military, which is fair, but not much meat behind the idea that there are any significant amount of gang members actually in the military. There are no numbers. The report says that:
Gang members have been reported in every branch of the US militarym, although a large proportion of these gang members and dependent gang members of military personnel are affiliated with the US Army, Army Reserves, and National Guard branches.
Go Army but this tells us nothing really. How many members? Are we talking about five guys (or gals) or five thousand? Doesn’t say, just that every branch has them and, earlier in the report, that almost all major gangs are represented. They are clearly trying to give the impression that this is a large problem but providing no numerical basis for it.
Let’s talk about the photo at the top of this post. It’s taken directly from the report and is titled “Figure 14. A soldier in a combat zone throwing gang signs”. Look again at what he’s doing. He’s giving the “west side” hand signal. I’ve done this. My 17 year old sister has done this. Your 17 year old sister has probably done this. Maybe he’s a Tupac fan (second Tupac reference, quota filled).
Here’s a passage that bothered me:
Many street gang members join the military to escape the gang lifestyle or as an alternative to incarceration, but often revert back to their gang associations once they encounter other gang members in the military.
The word “often” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence isn’t it? What’s often? If they joined to escape that lifestyle, why are they going back to it? Again how many gang members are there that they bump into each other so much? No answers.
Here’s a part that really kind of pissed me off:
Younger gang members without criminal records are attempting to join the military, as well as concealing tattoos and gang affiliation during the recruitment process, according to NGIC reporting.
Without criminal records! As in they have not been convicted of a crime! And they are trying to join the military, the insanity. Look if a young gang member tries to the join the military more power to him (or her). I for one have faith that he’ll come under the wing of a strong squad leader or platoon sergeant and they’ll square him away into a model soldier. People without criminal records joining the military isn’t the problem, its the ones with them that is.
In closing here’s something I found in the endnotes:
Juggalos are traditionally fans of the musical group the Insane Clown Posse. Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, and Utah are the only US states that recognize Juggalos as a gang.
I can report with 100% confidence I have not seen any Juggalos in the Army. Definitely would have remembered that.