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A 1st Armored Division soldier in Germany flashing a gang sign while on guard duty.

Gangster Disciples graffiti scrawled near the helipad on Leighton Barracks in Würzburg, Germany.

Wine glasses decorated with Gangster Disciples symbols that soldiers had made at a German-American festival.

The pictures are in a 2006 PowerPoint presentation on criminal street gangs in the military by Kenneth Ferguson Kelly, a former military police investigator in Germany. Stars and Stripes obtained a copy of the presentation.

The 43-slides offer insights into why gang members join the military; comments from a former gang member in the Army; instances of gang activity in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines; analyses of gang symbols; and proactive responses with which military leaders can combat gangs.

The slide show, titled “Criminal Street Gangs In the ‘MILITARY,’ ” was a compilation of material gathered over several years, said Maj. Thomas Acklen, whose name appears on the brief’s title page. He now works at U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen, Netherlands. He didn’t put the presentation together all on his own, he said, and the briefing is constantly being updated.

The presentation and others like it around Europe are used as educational tools for commanders at all levels — from company level on up to division, Acklen said.

“Throughout Europe there was kind of a directive,” he said. “There’s several people throughout Europe that give these briefs.”

The slide show could be considered a wake-up call to anyone who thinks the military is immune to gang infiltration. “There is ample evidence that members of the Armed Forces have had previous, or have current and active contact with criminal street gangs and extremist groups,” according to the presentation.

Gang members join the military for a number of reasons, including recruiting dependents and soldiers, acquiring weapons, learning tactics and trafficking drugs, the presentation states.

“There is a felony waiver process for joining the military so not all soldiers that come into the Army have a clean past,” according to notes in the presentation.

“Some are trying to leave the gangs, but others are using the military job as a cover. Joining a gang requires being beat into the gang. Leaving a gang requires the same,” the presentation also said.

The presentation lists several examples of gang activity in the military, including the death of Sgt. Juwan Johnson in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Johnson was severely beaten July 3, 2005, during an alleged initiation ceremony into the Chicago-based Gangster Disciples. The 25-year-old soldier was found dead in his barracks the next day.

Soldiers need to be educated about the dangers of joining gangs and extremist groups or associating with them, the presentation says.

“Some of the signs are a sudden change in routine, new larger groups of friends, sudden change in dress or similar appearance to others in peer groups, increase in money with no viable source, drug abuse and or trafficking, alcohol abuse or a rebellious attitude toward work or others,” the presentation states. “New tattoos or brands, the displaying of graffiti or gang signs in drawings or pictures, even a sudden interest in knives and guns can be a tell-tale sign of an interest in becoming a member of a group.”

Proactive responses listed in the presentation include avoiding denial of gang dynamics, knowing and enforcing policies and regulations, and initiating legal actions for violations of military law.

One of the last slides calls for sharing information:

“Making sure the leadership is aware of the issues is key to this and of course sharing the information with others.”

View the presentation ...

A 1st ID-sponsored report on criminal street gangs in the military(You must be able to view PowerPoint files on your computer to view this.)


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