SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - They have found their way into the ranks and are now posing a significant criminal threat. Gang members in the United States military are coming home with military training.
The FBI released a report saying gang members have been discovered in every branch of the armed forces. It's a nightmare scenario. A growing number of gang members are joining the military, and when they return to the streets they are more dangerous than ever.
On July 3, 2005, Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson went to a park not far from his base in Germany to be initiated to the Gangster Disciples, a notorious Chicago-based street gang. He was beaten by eight other soldiers in a jump-in. Johnson died that night from his injuries. He was only 25 years old.
"I feel like I didn't prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have but how would I have known there were gangs in the military? I could have had that talk with him," mother Stephanie Cockrell said.
Evidence of gang culture and gang activity in the military is increasing so much, an FBI report calls it "a threat to law enforcement and national security."
In Iraq and Afghanistan, gang graffiti is on blast walls, even on Humvees. Colonel Gene Smith of the Army's Office of Provost Marshal had this to say to CBS News:
"We represent America. Our demographics are the same. So the same problems that America contends with, we often times contend with," Col. Smith said.
TJ Leydon, a former neo-Nazi and Maraine, wrote "Skinhead Confessions." He's worried what gangsters are learning in warfare will eventually end up with more bloodshed on the street.
"Where you are going up against a former Navy SEAL or former U.S. Marine or former member of the 100th Airborne, you're gonna lose, not because you're not a good cop but because you don't have tactical advantage on your side," Leydon said.
Leydon says many law enforcement agencies are changing their procedures. Before serving a search warrant, officials are now checking to see if that person has prior military experience.
The latest FBI report devotes four pages to the problem, and lists about 50 gangs with members with military backgrounds.