The U.S. Army is extremely concerned about any potential gang activity among its Soldiers, family members or civilian employees. This is a serious issue, but we don't see an increasing trend.

Our military police and criminal investigators have been working for about 20 years with local police, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Bureau of Prisons. We sponsor gang-identification and gang prevention classes for Soldiers, NCOs, officers and family members at posts in Korea, Europe and the United States.

Gang activity is contrary to good order and discipline in the Armed Forces. It's also addressed in Army Regulation 600-20 Army Command Policy, which says, "Military personnel must reject participation in extremist organizations and activities - those that advocate racial, gender or ethic hatred, illegal discrimination or the use of force to deprive others of their Constitutional rights." We teach Soldiers and Families about some of the more than 13,700 gangs in America and some of the potential indicators to look for: use of narcotics, new clothing styles and colored bandanas, slang talk, gangster music hand-sign flashing and graffiti.

In Fiscal Year 2006, the Army adopted the National Crime Information Center's (NCIC) definition of gangs and gang members, and expanded the criteria used in previous studies. We continue to conduct annual surveys of our Soldiers and Family members.

The number of gang-related felony investigations continues to be an extremely small percentage of the overall number of CID investigations Army wide, 0.16% in FY2006. The low number of felony investigations may be attributed in part to the continued awareness of gang related activities by Army commanders, and the elimination of gang members from the Army.

While there has been an increase in both gang related investigations and incidents reported in FY2006 over previous years, this appears due to the application of the NCIC definition of gang and gang members for that year's studies. There has also been an increased emphasis placed on gang awareness by both CID and MP field units.

On waivers to permit young people to join the Army: we granted about 35,000 waivers last year (FY2005) out of 222,500 new recruits. Most of those are regarding medical issues, weight and physical fitness, but some are for moral reasons - a common one is having five or six traffic tickets.

Tattoos are increasingly common in young people ages 18 to 25. All people who apply to join the Army are asked if they have any tattoos or brands by the Recruiter. Those applicants who Recruiters verify are not in compliance with Army Regulation 670-1 or current policies are not eligible to enlist. While we are permitting some recruits with tattoos, we're still working with the Bureau of Prisons and other agencies to be mindful of potential gang or extremist group tattoos.

Army Regulation 670-1 Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, Chapter 8, lays out the Army's tattoo policy. Tattoos or brands that are extremist, indecent, sexist or racist are prohibited, regardless of location on the body, as they are prejudicial to good order and discipline within Army units.

The MEPS guidance counselor is responsible for final screening for acceptability both at the time of initial enlistment and prior to shipping to Basic Combat Training. Directing the removal of a tattoo or brand for enlistment purposes is strictly prohibited. Recruiting personnel will not participate in any activity to assist the applicant or future Soldier waiting to ship to remove or cover a tattoo or brand.

All applicants to join the Army undergo city, county and state police record checks. In addition, there is an electronic fingerprint check with the FBI conducted at the MEPS at the time of enlistment.

Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy, dated 7 July 2006:
4-12. Extremist organizations and activities

Participation in extremist organizations and activities by Army personnel is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service. It is the policy of the United States Army to provide equal opportunity and treatment for all Soldiers without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. Enforcement of this policy is a responsibility of command, is vitally important to unit cohesion and morale, and is essential to the Army's ability to accomplish its mission. It is the commander's responsibility to maintain good order and discipline in the unit. Every commander has the inherent authority to take appropriate actions to accomplish this goal. This paragraph identifies prohibited actions by Soldiers involving extremist organizations, discusses the authority of the commander to establish other prohibitions, and establishes that violations of prohibitions contained in this paragraph or those established by a commander may result in prosecution under various provisions of the UCMJ. This paragraph must be used in conjunction with DODD 1325.6, Subject: Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces. DA Pam 600-15 provides guidance in implementing Army policy on extremist activities and organizations.

a. Participation. Military personnel must reject participation in extremist organizations and activities. Extremist organizations and activities are ones that advocate racial, gender, or ethnic hatred or intolerance; advocate, create, or engage in illegal discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, or national origin, or advocate the use of or use force or violence or unlawful means to deprive individuals of their rights under the United States Constitution or the laws of the United States, or any State, by unlawful means.

b. Prohibitions. Soldiers are prohibited from the following actions in support of extremist organizations or activities. Penalties for violations of these prohibitions include the full range of statutory and regulatory sanctions, both criminal (UCMJ), and administrative.

(1) Participating in public demonstrations or rallies.

(2) Attending a meeting or activity with the knowledge that the meeting or activity involves an extremist cause when on duty, when in uniform, when in a foreign country (whether on or off duty or in or out of uniform), when it constitutes a breach of law and order, or when it is likely to result in violence or when in violation of off limits sanctions or commander's order.

(3) Fund raising activities.

(4) Recruiting or training members (including encouraging other Soldiers to join).

(5) Creating, organizing, or taking a visible leadership role in such an organization or activity.

(6) Distributing literature on or off a military installation, the primary purpose and content of which concerns advocacy or support of extremist causes, organizations, or activities; and it appears that the literature presents a clear danger to the loyalty, discipline, or morale of military personnel, or the distribution would materially interfere with the accomplishment of a military mission.

c. Command authority. Commanders have the authority to prohibit military personnel from engaging in or participating in any other activities that the commander determines will adversely affect good order and discipline or morale within the command. This includes, but is not limited to, the authority to order the removal of symbols, flags, posters, or other displays from barracks, to place areas or activities off-limits (see AR 190-24 ), or to order Soldiers not to participate in those activities that are contrary to good order and discipline or morale of the unit or pose a threat to health, safety, and security of military personnel or a military installation.

d. Command options. Commander's options for dealing with a Soldier's violation of the prohibitions include -

(1) UCMJ action - Possible violations include the following:

(a) Article 92 - Violation or failure to obey a lawful general order or regulation.

(b) Article 116 - Riot or breach of peace.

(c) Article 117 - Provoking speeches or gestures.

(d) Article 134 - General article, specifically, conduct which is prejudicial to good order and discipline or service discrediting.

(2) Involuntary separation for unsatisfactory performance or misconduct, or for conduct deemed prejudicial to good order and discipline or morale.

(3) Reclassification actions or bar to reenlistment actions, as appropriate.

(4) Other administrative or disciplinary action deemed appropriate by the commander, based on the specific facts and circumstances of the particular case.

e. Command responsibility. Any Soldier involvement with or in an extremist organization or activity (such as membership, receipt of literature, or presence at an event) could threaten the good order and discipline of a unit. In any case of apparent Soldier involvement with or in extremist organizations or activities, whether or not violative of the prohibitions in subparagraph b , commanders must take positive actions to educate Soldiers, putting them on notice of the potential adverse effects that participation in violation of Army policy may have upon good order and discipline in the unit and upon their military service. These positive actions include -

(1) Educating Soldiers regarding the Army's equal opportunity policy. Commanders will advise Soldiers that extremist organizations' goals are inconsistent with Army goals, beliefs, and values concerning equal opportunity.

(2) Advising Soldiers that any participation in extremist organizations or activities -

(a) Will be taken into consideration when evaluating their overall duty performance, to include appropriate remarks on evaluation reports.

(b) Will be taken into consideration when selections for positions of leadership and responsibility are made.

(c) Will result in removal of security clearances, where appropriate.

(d) Will result in reclassification actions or bar to reenlistment actions as appropriate.

(3) The commander of a military installation or other military controlled facility under the jurisdiction of the United States will prohibit any demonstration or activity on the installation or facility that could result in interference with or prevention of orderly accomplishment of the mission of the installation or facility, or present a clear danger to loyalty, discipline, or morale of the troops. Further, such commanders will deny requests for the use of military controlled facilities by individuals or groups that engage in discriminatory practices or for activities involving such practices.

f. Legal advice and counsel. Commanders should seek the advice and counsel of their legal advisor when taking actions pursuant to this policy.

Recruiting Command's criminal background screening of applicants:

All applicants undergo city, county and state police record checks. In addition, there is an electronic fingerprint check with the FBI conducted at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) at the time of enlistment.

A person who is currently under any sentence, to include confinement, probation, unsupervised probation, parole, suspended sentence, has unpaid fines or is pending any criminal charge is ineligible for entry or to process for the Army.

However, a person who has had previous criminal charges may or may not be eligible for enlistment depending on the offense committed. Each case is judged on its own merits and whole person review. A person who after their release from civil control may have a waiting period before their application can be considered. The number of criminal charges, the act itself or the classification of the charge by the Army may be grounds to deny entry.

A person (adult) who has more than one felony offense is not eligible to enlist. There are numerous conditions that apply to past criminal activity, regardless if it was expunged, dismissed or other adjudicated as a juvenile.

We do not allow a waiver for those who are listed on sex offender web sites. We do not waive any violent offenses involving rape, forcible sodomy, prostitution involving a minor, pornography involving a minor or assault with the intent to commit rape or sodomy.

There may be cases in which information is concealed by the applicant and all available checks into the criminal background of the individual fails to reveal an arrest record. In those cases, USAREC would appoint an investigating officer to conduct an inquiry into what may be a fraudulent enlistment.

Recruiting Command enlistment waivers

The Army has a sound process for considering and granting waivers that allows those who have overcome mistakes, made earlier in their lives, to serve their country.
Standards in our society have changed over the years. We are a reflection of those changes. As an example, today young men and women are being charged for offenses that in earlier years wouldn't have been considered a serious offense, and might not have resulted in charges in the first place. Standards also vary from state to state.

Only 3 of 10 men and women between 17 and 24 years old are fully qualified for service in the Army due to medical, moral, physical, education and aptitude challenges.

Nearly 50 percent of all waivers are for medical (asthma, flat feet, blood pressure, vision).

Almost 90 percent of all moral waivers are for misdemeanors (curfew violations, one DUI, altered driver's license, illegal use of credit card under $500, one possession of marijuana).

The total number of waivers between FY 01 and FY 05 increased because the number of recruits with a waiver for a medical issue or a misdemeanor increased. However, these waivers are only granted after a thorough medical review or a review of the misdemeanor offense. More importantly, the number of recruits requiring a waiver because of serious criminal misconduct or for drug and alcohol issues declined by 33 percent.

Serious misconduct waivers (such as aggravated assault, robbery and two counts of DUI) require General Officer level approval.

We will not waive a pattern of misconduct, convictions of trafficking or distributing drugs, or any sexually violent crimes.

USAREC Screening for tattoos, brands, extremists and gang involvement

The most recent Army Recruiting Command guidance on tattoo screening is in USAREC MESSAGE 06-086, dated 10 March 2006, SUBJECT: Enlistment eligibility concerning tattoos, brands, extremists and gang involvement.

The message cites the following references:

Army Regulation 670-1, Wear and Appearance of Army Uniform and Insignia, 3 February 2005, effective 3 March 2005.

Army Regulation 601-210, Regular Army and Army Reserve Enlistment Program, 16 May 2005 with Operational changes, dated 30 Sept 2005.

TRADOC Regulation 350-6, Enlisted Initial Entry Training (IET) Policies and Administration, 3 July 2001.

USAREC Form 1127 (Supplement to DA Fm 3286-67 Statement for Enlistment or Appointment) Army policy.

Department of the Army memorandum, AR 670-1 Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia (Chapter 1-8, paragraph e, Tattoo Policy), dated 20 January 2006.

Tattoos or brands that are extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist are prohibited, regardless of location on the body, as they are prejudicial to good order and discipline within units.

Extremist tattoos or brands are those affiliated with, depicting, or symbolizing extremist philosophies, organizations, or activities; those which advocate racial, gender, ethnic hatred, or intolerance; advocate, create, or engage in illegal discrimination based on race, color, gender, ethnicity, religion, or national origin; or advocate violence or other unlawful means of depriving individual rights under the U.S. Constitution, Federal, or State law (see Para 4-12, AR 600-20).

USAREC guidance recommends utilization of the Internet to assist in identification of those organizations with any of the above affiliations for the local area.

Indecent tattoos or brands are those that are grossly offensive to modesty, decency, or propriety; shock the moral sense because of their vulgar, filthy, or disgusting nature or tendency to incite lustful thought; or tend reasonably to corrupt morals or incite libidinous thoughts, i.e., naked female or male bodies, graphic body parts, depiction of sexual acts.

Sexist tattoos or brands are those that advocate a philosophy that degrades or demeans a person based on gender, but that may not meet the same definition of "indecent", i.e., French Maid, Harem Girl, Man's Head on Dog's Body.

Racist tattoos or brands are those that advocate a philosophy that degrades or demeans a person based on race, ethnicity, or national origin, i.e., KKK, NETA, Aryan Brotherhood, Black Panthers.

All applicants who agree to process will be asked if they have any tattoos, brands, body piercing or body mutilation by the recruiter. Those applicants that recruiters verify are not in compliance with AR 670-1 or current policies are not eligible to enlist. Those that are questionable, IAW Para 6 above, must be reviewed by the appropriate approval authority.

Approval can be given at various levels, and in those situations where it's questionable whether the tattoo is objectionable, the decision can be passed up the chain of command for determination. This is the chain of approval/denial authority: recruiter, station commander, company leadership team, battalion commander or battalion executive officer, brigade operations, brigade commander, Recruiting Command deputy commanding general/deputy commanding officer.

The MEPS guidance counselor is responsible for final screening for acceptability both at the time of initial enlistment and prior to shipping to initial entry training.

Directing the removal of a tattoo or brand for enlistment purposes is strictly prohibited. Recruiting personnel will not participate in any activity to assist the applicant or DEP/RDEP/DTP member to remove or cover a tattoo or brand. No government resources will be utilized to assist an applicant to meet enlistment standards (remove or cover a tattoo).

Page last updated Wed August 1st, 2007 at 10:13