Despite efforts to stop them, criminal street gangs have been active inside the U.S. military. And, according to one recent report, the situation has gotten much worse.

In 2006, Jeffrey Stoleson, a sergeant in the Army Reserve then in Iraq, described an unbelievable scene to reporter Frank Main of the Chicago Sun-Times. Based on Stoleson’s account, and the many pictures he had taken, Main wrote: “In a storage yard in Taji, about 18 miles north of Baghdad, dozens of tanks were vandalized with painted gang signs…. Much of the graffiti was by Chicago based gangs,” according to Stoleson.

Since then, Congress has banned members of the military from being in street gangs, and the Defense Department put the ban in its rulebooks last November. But that hasn’t slowed down the apparent growth of gang activity inside the military. According to Stoleson and others, it has only gotten worse.

Stoleson, described by Main as a “Wisconsin corrections officer” when not serving as a sergeant with the National Guard, returned home from his latest tour in Iraq in January, where he worked with the Army to set up a prison facility near Baghdad. As before, he said the signs of gang activity were all around.

“I saw Maniac Latin Disciples graffiti out of Chicago,” he told Main. According to Main’s report, Stoleson also saw “a lot of graffiti for Texas and California gangs, as well as Mexican drug cartels.”

An unnamed Chicago Police officer, who Main says “retired from the regular Army and was recently on a tour of Afghanistan in the Army Reserve” echoed Stoleson’s comments. Noting that Bagram Air Base was covered in Chicago gang graffiti, the officer said the problem “seems bigger now.”

The Police officer, who described gang activity in the military as “scary,” told the Sun-Times that “he has arrested high-level gang members who have served in the military and kept the ‘infantryman’s bible’ — called the FM 7-8 — in their homes.” That book, Main notes, “describes how to run for cover [and] fire a weapon tactically.”

But gang members with military experience often have more to rely on than a printed “how-to” manual for warfare. “Gang members are coming home now with one or two tours,” Stoleson said. “Some were on the field of battle.”

Once back on the streets domestically, militarized gangsters can present an even greater threat to civilians and law-enforcement personnel.

A tragic and deadly example of the potential danger posed by militarized gang members is the ambush of police officers in Ceres, California, in 2005. Hoping to lure officers into his trap, at approximately 8 p.m. on January 9 of that year, Lance Corporal Andres Raya fired his assault rifle in front of a liquor store. Going inside the store, he told the clerk that he had just been shot at, and asked that the police be called. Raya then waited for the police to arrive. He then shot and killed police Sergeant Howard Stevenson, and seriously wounded officer Sam Ryno. Stevenson’s death, in particular, was essentially an execution. Having wounded the officer, Raya ran to him and ended his life with two shots in the back of the head.

Source: Dennis Behreandt for The New American.

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