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GANGSTAS IN THE MILITARY

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By Michelle Malkin  •  May 4, 2006 01:00 PM

Been meaning to get to this disturbing Chicago Sun-Times story on gangbangers in the US armed forces. Reporter Frank Main publicized photos taken by Army reservist Jeffrey Stoleson in Iraq. These are just a few of hundreds of images of defaced military vehicles, barricades, etc., that Stoleson has snapped:

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The problem is a longstanding one, but according to Stoleson, higher-ups discourage troops from calling attention to it: Main reports:

“I have identified 320 soldiers as gang members from April 2002 to present,” said Scott Barfield, a Defense Department gang detective at Fort Lewis in Washington state. “I think that’s the tip of the iceberg.”

Of paramount concern is whether gang-affiliated soldiers’ training will make them deadly urban warriors when they return to civilian life and if some are using their access to military equipment to supply gangs at home, said Barfield and other experts.

‘They don’t try to hide it’

Jeffrey Stoleson, an Army Reserve sergeant in Iraq for almost a year, said he has taken hundreds of photos of gang graffiti there.

In a storage yard in Taji, about 18 miles north of Baghdad, dozens of tanks were vandalized with painted gang symbols, Stoleson said in a phone interview from Iraq. He said he also took pictures of graffiti at Camp Scania, about 108 miles southeast of Baghdad, and Camp Anaconda, about 40 miles north of Baghdad. Much of the graffiti was by Chicago-based gangs, he said.

…Because of the extreme danger of his mission in Iraq, Stoleson said he does not relish the idea of working alongside gang members, whom he does not trust. Stoleson said he once reported to a supervisor that he suspected a company of soldiers in Iraq was rife with gang members.

“My E-8 [supervising sergeant] told me not to ruffle their feathers because they were doing a good job,” he said.

Stoleson said he has spotted soldiers in Iraq with tattoos signifying their allegiance to the Vice Lords and the Simon City Royals, another street gang spawned in Chicago.

“They don’t try to hide it,” Stoleson said.

The safety concerns are not hypothetical. Last year, I reported on a cop-killing Marine, Lance Corporal Andres Raya--who had been caught on videotape with Latino gang members smoking marijuana and throwing gang signs after breaking into a school gym, stealing computer equipment, tearing up an American flag, and spelling out “F— BUSH” with the pieces–which were left on the gym floor.

As I noted at the time, the question isn’t what got into Raya when he entered the military. The question is why and how Raya — who police say had a propensity for violence well before he joined the Marines — got into our military in the first place. Few have challenged the Pentagon’s decision to let admitted illegal aliens–some using illegal fake documents— join the armed forces. Now, the FBI has assigned investigators to probe ties between US soldiers and gang alliances:

Of particular concern are reports that the Folk Nation, consisting of more than a dozen gangs in the Chicago area, is placing young members in the military in an effort to gather information about weapons and tactics, said FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons, who is based in El Paso, Texas.

“Our understanding is that they find members without a criminal history so that they can join, and once they get out, they will have a new set of skills that they can apply to criminal enterprises,” Simmons said. “This could be a concern for any law enforcement agency that has to deal with gangs on a daily basis.”

Chicago gang symbols can be found amid other graffiti, mostly in latrines on U.S. military bases such as Camp Fallujah in Iraq’s Anbar Province.

There’s an interesting discussion over at Military.com.

The White House seems to be shrugging off the reports.

Question: Do we really want thugs who mark their territory like animals and swear allegiance to criminal enterprises serving in uniform? Are we nuts?

The question answers itself.

***

Flashback: Gang infiltration isn’t the only internal danger to our troops.

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