Gang members in the US military are returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan armed with knowledge of military tactics, a fact that could threaten the lives of law enforcement officers in the US and worsen the gang problem, according to a new report from the Chicago Sun-Times.
Jeffrey Stoleson, a Wisconsin corrections officer who has completed multiple tours in Iraq, also told the Sun-Times that civilian contractors are a part of the growing drug-gang problem within the US’s overseas wars. Stoleson says he was “involved in destroying a large quantity of drugs confiscated from US contractors in Iraq.”
An unnamed Chicago police officer who served in Afghanistan said Bagram Air Base is “covered with Chicago gang graffiti,” the Sun-Times reported. That same officer said that, since returning to Chicago, he has arrested gang members who had the Army’s combat manual at home.
Last November, following a number of reports of gang activity among US troops, the Department of Defense banned troops from belonging to gangs. But both Stoleson and the unnamed Chicago officer told the Sun-Times that the problem appears to be growing worse all the same.
Another police officer told the Sun-Times that it has become common practice for his force to be briefed about gang suspects’ military training.
US GANGS GOING WORLDWIDE?
A 2007 FBI report found that “members of nearly every major street gang have been identified on both domestic and international military installations,” and warned that “the military enlistment of gang members could ultimately lead to the worldwide expansion of US-based gangs.”
The report said that some gang members enlist simply to escape the gang lifestyle, or to avoid a lethal gang conflict. But “some gang members may also enlist to receive weapons, combat, and convoy support training; to obtain access to weapons and explosives; or as an alternative to incarceration.”
The report went on to say: “Military-trained gang members also present an emerging threat to law enforcement officers patrolling the streets of US cities. Both current and former gang-affiliated soldiers transfer their acquired military training and knowledge back to the community and employ them against law enforcement officers, who are typically not trained to engage gangsters with military expertise.”