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Police fear Fort Sill is home to gang woes

BY RON JACKSON Published: November 9, 2008
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photo - Men identified by Lawton police as Fort Sill soldiers flash gang signs in a photo from a social networking Web site. PHOTO Provided by Lawton Police
Men identified by Lawton police as Fort Sill soldiers flash gang signs in a photo from a social networking Web site. PHOTO Provided by Lawton Police
An
argument ensued. Shots were fired. Easterling died.

"The argument started with one guy disrespecting the other,” Southerland said. "Next thing you know, guns are pulled. ...”

A war within a war

Tattoo artist Rocky White, who operates a shop just beyond Fort Sill’s gates, isn’t shocked by the idea.

"Young soldiers come in here all the time asking me to do some gang-related tattoo,” White said.

"I sit them down and lecture them on the profound effect it could have on their lives and their military careers.”

Recently, White said a Marine recruiter approached him about hiding a young recruit’s swastika tattoo with an Irish clover. The combination is a symbol for the Aryan Brotherhood.

"If they are persistent, I just refuse,” White said.

"I have a real problem doing any kind of drug- or gang-related tattoos.”

Experts claim gangs in the military are nothing new, although the subject always seems to shock the senses of the general population.

Hunter Glass, a former U.S. Army soldier who specializes studying military gangs, said the problem is alarming and widespread.

"I often encounter people who express disbelief,” Glass told The Oklahoman from his North Carolina home. "And my lectures aren’t always popular. People get angry. I’ve had politicians call me, generals call me ... but people have to wake up. The military is a reflection of society. Why wouldn’t there be gang members in the military?

"The world isn’t always Norman Rockwell.”

Southerland and his gang task force members are now bracing for the thousands of soldiers who will transfer to Fort Sill with the Army Air Defense School from Fort Bliss by 2011. Police fear the transfers could ignite a turf war among military gang members.

The National Gang Intelligence Center mentioned Fort Bliss in a 2006 report, noting authorities had identified more than 40 suspected military-affiliated members of the Chicago-based Folk Nation gang on post.

"By their nature, gang members are violent and territorial,” Glass said. "I’d say the likelihood of conflict is highly probable.”

There is one more concern, perhaps the greatest of all.

"It’s a disgrace to the military,” said Clay Houseman, a gang task force member. "Our veterans didn’t fight and die in wars so these guys could join the military and terrorize our streets as members of gangs. We just can’t let that happen.”