By CID Public AffairsMay 23, 2016
On the first anniversary of a biker shoot-out that made national headlines and killed nine at a restaurant in Waco, Texas, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, encourages Soldiers and family members to fully educate themselves on motorcycle culture and clubs - especially if they are contemplating becoming a member.
According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center's "Motorcycle Safety Guide," more than 33,000 motorcycles are currently registered on Army installations. The popularity of the low-cost mode of transportation heightens the need for motorcycle owners and their families to be aware, both on and off the road, of the motorcycle culture that brings riders together.
Riders often come together in a "club-type atmosphere" where they want to socialize, support each other and ride together. These clubs have their own patches, rules and protocol and can become an extension of one's family. It is said that 99 percent of those who ride and belong to motorcycle clubs are law abiding enthusiasts.
The other one percent of riders, however, make up the lawless subculture made popular by television shows such as the "Sons of Anarchy." That one percent, called Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, or OMGs, may be using motorcycle events or functions as a criminal enterprise and as an opportunity to recruit law-abiding members of the military.
Soldiers and their families, especially those who ride, need to be aware of the OMGs in their area.
"Many service members, civilian employees and family members attend functions that are designed for motorcycle riders and the brotherhood of the biker subculture," Joe Ethridge, chief of CID's Criminal Intelligence Division, said.
"Outlaw Motorcycle Gang members will attend these functions as well. It is well documented that OMGs and support clubs recruit military members into their ranks," Ethridge added.
To understand if motorcycle enthusiasts are OMG members, Soldiers, civilian employees and family members should do their research and be aware of the patches and logos they wear.
"An OMG member, while wearing his garb, can be easily identified to the trained eye," Ethridge said.
The most recognizable symbol of OMGs are a "1%" diamond patch, or ring, that is worn. Often, OMG members have this tattoo as well. OMG members also identify by wearing vests or "cuts," other OMG-related tattoos, white supremacist or Nazi symbols, and other symbols that are specific to their gang.
Additionally, Ethridge said, OMG members will sell supporter t-shirts and other paraphernalia to help support criminal legal defense funds when a member is in need.
"The best thing service members and their families can do is watch and read the news and be aware of OMG actions in their area," Ethridge said.
He stressed that Soldiers should not consider membership or acquaint themselves with OMG members.
In fact, as stated in Department of Defense Instruction 1325.06, "military personnel must reject active participation in criminal gangs and other organizations that advocate supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes."
Further, Army Regulation 600-20 states that commanders may prohibit military personnel from engaging in or participating in any activities that the commander determines will adversely affect good order and discipline or morale within the command. Commanders have the authority to use UCMJ action, involuntary separation, reclassification actions, bar reenlistment actions and other administrative or disciplinary actions, if necessary.
In any case of apparent Soldier involvement with or in gangs or extremist organizations or activities, whether or not they violate the prohibitions in AR 600-20, commanders must take positive actions to educate Soldiers, putting them on notice of the potential adverse effects.
"To avoid potential adverse effects, Soldiers looking for a club to join should consider one of the Army's Motorcycle Mentorship clubs, which brings together Soldiers across the country," Ethridge said.
The Army's Motorcycle Mentorship Program was established in 2005 to create installation-level motorcycle clubs for less-experienced and seasoned riders. For more information, or to find a club, visit the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center's at https://safety.army.mil.
Service members can find OMG and other gang-related information from the National Gang Center website, https://www.nationalgangcenter.gov. The Gang-Related News Articles section, https://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Gang-Related-News, allows users to search by state.
Soldiers, civilian employees and family member should also consider the following recommendations:
• Do not associate with the OMG clubs or support clubs
• It is against DoD and Army Regulations to associate with a known criminal gang or club
• Do not become an unwitting supporter by purchasing shirts or other gear
• Do not frequent establishments that support OMG clubs or members
• Do not participate in OMG sanctioned functions such as poker runs, rallies or cook offs and related activities
• Educate yourself, your troops, friends and family
• Briefings on OMGs, street gangs and extremist can be provided upon request. To find the CID office nearest you, visit www.cid.army.mil.