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Gang Members: No place for you in the Guard
By Tech. Sgt. Paul Connors, 177 FW/PA; Illustration by Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, 177FW/PA
TAG at Operation Jump Start
Club scene: the music is booming to the accompaniment of lights, men and women are dancing; some of the guys are flashing gang hand signs. A bar in Los Angeles or Miami?  Not quite.  The scene is from a video taken in the enlisted club at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Gangs!  You’ve read about them, heard about them and seen the results of their activities on the nightly news.  Viewing their activities from the outside and the comfort of your reasonably safe community generally results with statements of denial, the kind where people say, “not in my community.”

The fact is gangs exist just about everywhere in New Jersey and they have become an increasing problem for law enforcement and other state agencies.

On the basis of information provided by the Attorney General’s Office of the Juvenile Justice Commission to Capt. Diana Brown, 177th Fighter Wing Director of Personnel, and after receiving information from local law enforcement that the 177th could be a potential target for gangs to infiltrate, it was decided to hold a conference on gang activities at the 177th.

Commanders, First Sergeants and recruiters from both the 177th and the 108th Air Refueling Wing attended to better be able to understand gang behavior, their recruiting methods and some of the tell-tale signs of gang membership.

One of the strategies employed by gangs is their “grooming” of members to join the military.  Gangs do this to obtain crucial combat arms skills to further advance their criminal activities.  They do this by selecting members from within their ranks with no criminal record and none of the gang tattoos that immediately identify members.  The individuals are then actively encouraged to approach military recruiters, especially Army and Marine Corps (although Air Force is a target as well), where infantry and other combat tactics are taught.  The planning stage is based on the assumption that the gang member’s first loyalty is to the gang and that after leaving military service, will return to the gang where his/her  military skills will then be put to work.

While gang membership is not illegal in and of itself, it is not consistent with the good order and discipline required within the armed forces where unit cohesion is necessary for mission accomplishment.

Surprisingly, gangs have identified affluent rural and suburban communities as prime territories for the expansion of their illicit drug sales activities. During the conference, Juvenile Justice Commission representatives provided information that gangs are plentiful in Pleasantville and Atlantic City and in fact, every gang that has been identified, to include The Bloods and the Crips are represented within the two cities. Furthermore the Bloods in New Jersey have about 4,064 members of ALL races.
While the workshop was held primarily for the benefit of senior leaders in both of New Jersey’s ANG units, participation by local and state law enforcement agencies was robust and contributed to the session’s success.  Several of the civilian law enforcement members, among them Detective Chris Taggart - a member of the Pleasantville Police Department and also a technical sergeant with the 177th Security Forces provided in depth details on gang activities, infiltration and recruiting practices providing timely and relevant information for the ANG leaders in attendance.

One issue that civilian law enforcement has no control over is the ability of military organizations to ‘weed out’ gang members from within its own ranks.  Several Air Force Instructions and Department of Defense directives govern gang related and other unacceptable conduct.  Those individuals found to be members of gangs, whether they have engaged in criminal activity or not can be processed for separation. 

Whether or not the member receives an honorable discharge is based on individual circumstances, but the outcome will be the same, once identified the gang member will very quickly become a “former” member of the Air National Guard.

Table of Contents

Volume 32 Number 6
Staff / Information
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs