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Gangs in the military and their potential stateside impact

So far in this series of articles I have discussed several issues important to Law Enforcement with regard to our returning veterans. We know that many agencies throughout the United States should expect to see a significant increase in job applications stemming from service members seeking stateside employment. We know too that Academy instructors may find themselves in the company of battle-hardened warriors, not the typical untested cadet who is looking to find if they have what it takes to don the badge. Consequently we know that the cadet transformation will need to include a train the trainer approach without losing the student centric focus.  Here, we will discuss the undamental issues on the border, the truth behind gangs in the military, and the likely impact on stateside street violence. 

On the Ropes on the Border
I hear a lot of talk and debate surrounding Los Zetos and their militaristic abilities. I am personally more concerned with the large masses of Mexican troops that simply desert especially during times when Mexico’s economy is anything but prosperous.

U.S. Homeland Security authorities must re-evaluate the mechanism behind future assistance rendered to Mexico’s present Cartel “crack-down” efforts. According to internal Mexican Congressional review, an estimated 150,000 Mexican soldiers have deserted over the last six years. These staggering numbers would equate to roughly 30,000 soldiers a year.

It is not only the soldier that vanishes from the military — too often, critical training, knowledge, and resources disappear as well. I do not believe these small armies are simply deserting to work at a local convenience store. They are the future leaders and foot soldiers of the highly-profitable drug industry.

Try to imagine the sentiment of the United States Law Enforcement community if they knew that roughly 30,000 U.S. service members were going to desert every year for the next six years. The Mexican military’s lack of structure, leadership, and accountability warrants additional oversight. Additional caveats must be placed on Mexico if the U.S. is to continue to train the Mexican military. Documentation of Mexican forces trained, weaponry provided, and technology acquired does not constitute adequate accountability.

This is akin to running a car dealership. When we give a customer the keys to a brand new car for a test drive, we’ve taken down their personal information — who they are and where they live — and we expect their return following the test drive. But what if the customer decides they will drive the car over the border and never return home? The car is then stripped down and sold to the highest bidder. At this point, what good are the accountability logs?

This is similar to what the cartels do with weapons and foot soldiers.

This serious issue must be rectified if we as a nation are going to continue to supply training, weapons and aid to Mexico’s present counter-drug efforts. I am not insinuating it is in our nation’s best interest to turn our backs on our brothers across the border. I am recommending we take a different approach to securing our border which will be outlined in future dialogue.

Gangs in the Military
Gang culture in the military is not isolated to Mexican forces alone. Present U.S. military gang activity exists within nearly every U.S. installation in the world spanning from Germany to Japan and throughout the war-torn streets of Iraq.

So what is the actual gang climate in today’s military? The truth may startle you and the reports may never be known by U.S. Law Enforcement. Reporting is primarily conducted internally from one installation to another. The nation’s first glimpse may appear only after a court martial has been filed for public release. Aggressive studies dating back to the early 90s show the need for our own internal counter- drug and -gang “crack-down” of US military personnel. The question of timing and prioritizing is up for debate.

Organizations like NCIS and AFOSI, which typically orchestrate many of these internal cases, are already multi-tasked, out-sourced, and overly consumed with the never-ending war on terror, leaving the gang culture to flourish throughout U.S. Military bases worldwide.

Prior to the commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom, gang sympathizers successfully navigated their way into many military police and medical fields. These positions were aggressively sought after because of the weapons and emergency triage training that could be acquired.

An example of this would be a case that took place on a carrier in 2000 involving over 120 sailors who operated a highly successful drug network even though command leadership did everything in their power to mitigate this dishonorable conduct. Command urinalysis testing was ordered three times in eight days without revealing any substantial leads. Upon the completion of a more thorough investigation, a highly disturbing dilemma surfaced. The shot caller was the presumably squared-away Master-At-Arms who happened to be the Command Urinalysis Coordinator.

Today U.S. service members can acquire effective combat training in virtually any military profession because of the increased probability of deploying to a combat area of operation.

The U.S. Military’s highly diversified and ever growing gang population will prove in the years ahead that they have become a force to be reckoned with. They are in essence, the same savvy street criminal with one caveat; they possess asymmetrical warfare combat skills and have the ability to employ effective operational strategies to exploit our technical and tactical capabilities.

We should anticipate cartel leadership to work this angle of approach as their access routes into the United States become scarce. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s most recent declaration only further substantiates the probability of future street violence within the United States.

Learning from our past lessons in the field or on the street appears to overly consume academies and in-service training alike. My only question is, are we preparing police officers for tomorrow’s challenges or are we simply training for yesterday’s war?

Agencies nationwide already have highly specialized teams in place, better known as SWAT, SEB, HRT, etc. These professionals are an irreplaceable resource that could bestow additional critical knowledge in an extended advanced academy for patrol officers.

When training budget issues arise, perhaps we should look for the answer buried within the $1.4 billion to be allocated to train and equip our friends across the border. These advanced criminals are within our borders today and they will continue to be unless decisive measures are put into place. Rest assured that no training, equipment, or personnel from Mexico will be coming to our aid.

The estimated $65 billion dollar drug industry operates on the basis of supply and demand. The demand is not going away and neither is the problem.

As a nation we have to decide: are we looking for the short-term fix or the long-term solution?

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