Small Wars Journal

Gangs and the Military Note 2: Military-trained Gang Members as Criminal Insurgents

Thu, 05/31/2018 - 1:21pm

Gangs and the Military Note 2: Military-trained Gang Members as Criminal Insurgents

Carter F. Smith

Military-trained gang members (MTGMs) have received military training such as tactics, weapons, explosives, or equipment, and the use of distinctive military skills. Gangs with military-trained members often pose an ongoing and persistent military and political threat. At least one tenth of one percent of the U.S. population is an MTGM, and there are between 150,000 and 500,000 MTGMs. That number demonstrates an alarming domestic and national security threat that includes a number of potentially significant implications for government leaders in the U.S., and in other countries where third generation (3GEN) Gangs or Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) are prevalent. The intersection of MTGMs and criminal insurgencies threatens national security and communities, undermining the economic and political foundations of local and state government. These criminal organizations often behave like insurgents, engaging in governance to support the illicit marketplace or acting in police or social roles in the community. Counterinsurgency strategies, including cultural awareness should be implemented alongside traditional anti-gang measures.


“Delfino” was chosen by the Mexican army to join its elite unit, the airborne special forces group known as Grupos Aeromoviles de Fuerzas Especiales (Group of Special Forces of the High Command, or GAFE), where he specialized as a sniper.  Ten years later, he was recruited again by La Familia Michoacana - the predecessor organization to his current organization, a Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) called Los Caballeros Templarios, or the Knights Templar.[1] After specializing as a sniper, Delfino deployed for counterinsurgency operations on the Guatemalan border in southern Mexico in 1994.[2]  He later engaged in counter-narcotics operations in Lázaro Cárdenas, where his unit chased speedboats bringing cocaine from South America. Before long, Delfino accepted a job offer to apply what he had learned in the military in service to the DTO. The Templars are fighting to retain territory and have joined forces with a former rival DTO, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación–CJNG). According to Mexico’s defense ministry, about 1,383 elite soldiers deserted between 1994 and 2015, a key factor in transforming the DTOs in Mexico. Members of those units received training in counter-terrorism, counterintelligence, interrogation and strategy from French, Israeli and US advisers while in the Mexican military, and then applied those skills during their service to the cartels. Delfino is an example of an MTGM used by a 3GEN Gang or DTO to enhance their effectiveness and dangerousness.

Military-trained gang members (MTGMs) display indicators that they received military training such as tactics, weapons, explosives, or equipment, and the use of distinctive military skills. Military tactics include the techniques and strategies taught in a variety of military occupational specialties. Gangs with military-trained members have far more potential to pose an ongoing and persistent military or political threat. The intersection of MTGMs and criminal insurgencies add to the level of dangerousness in a community. The presence of 3GEN Gangs adds even more. These groups threaten national security and the social fabric of our communities. They also threaten the economic and political foundational underpinnings of local and state government.

The Zetas, another Mexican DTO, serve as an example of a group of MTGMs operating as (with the potential of) a criminal insurgency. The Zetas are made up of (and founded by) former members of the Mexican Special Military Forces. Their military training has caused rival groups to improve their own recruiting and training. While not as directly connected, the MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) also has some MTGM connections. MS-13 are one of the 3GEN Gangs.

Military Trained Gang Members

A Military-Trained Gang Member (MTGM) is a street gang, prison gang, Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG), or Domestic Terrorist Extremist group member per the applicable jurisdiction’s definition, with military training or experience, as perceived by a reasonable, typical, police officer.[3] MTGMs display indicators that they received military training either directly or indirectly. Indicators of military training include the use of military tactics, weapons, explosives, or equipment to conduct gang activity, and the use of distinctive military skills, particularly if gang members are trained in weapons, tactics, and planning, and then pass the instruction on to other gang members. Military tactics include the techniques and strategies taught in a variety of military occupational specialties, ranging from tactical assault to organizational leadership strategies.[4] Gangs with military-trained members have far more potential to pose an ongoing and persistent military or political threat.

A conservatively estimated one tenth of one percent of the U.S. population is an MTGM (roughly 300,000, as there are between 150,000 and 500,000 according to Smith, GATM Note 1).[5] That number of MTGMs demonstrates an alarming domestic and national security threat that includes a number of potentially significant implications for government leaders in the U.S., and in other countries where 3GEN Gangs are prevalent. MTGMs pose a serious threat to law enforcement and to the public.[6] They learn combat tactics in the military, then return home to utilize those skills against rival gangs or law enforcement. The authors of the 2009 NGIC report observed that “gang members with military training posed a unique threat to law enforcement personnel.”[7]

The Military Criminal Investigative Organizations (MCIO) — the Army Criminal Investigations Command (CID), Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) — have identified military personnel with gang membership or affiliation in every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.[8] The Fiscal Year 2016 Gang and Domestic Extremist Activity Threat Assessment (GDEATA) by the U.S. Army CID was the most recent official report available.[9] There has never been a longitudinal analysis of efforts, failures, and successes from year to year made public by the CID, yet the reports have been produced since 2005.

Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s NGIC and the CID regularly address the phenomenon of MTGMs. The NGIC recently released their 2017 National Gang Report, in which analysts reported Mexican DTOs (including the Zetas) have the greatest impact on drug trafficking in the United States.[10] They annually transport multi-ton quantities of illicit drugs across the United States southwest border.[11] Figure 1 shows the areas of influence of the major Mexican DTOs (AKA transnational criminal organizations–TCOs).


Figure 1: Mexican DTOs/TCOs in United States

Source: Drug Enforcement Administration: (U) United States: Areas of Major Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations; DEA-DCT-DIR-065-15, July 2015.

Etter and Lehmuth observed there was a time when Mexican drug cartels transferred their shipments at the U.S.-Mexican border, and another organization smuggled the products further into the U.S.  Many cartels had operations throughout North America, including all regions of the U.S.[12]


An effective response to counterinsurgency was a major adjustment for the U.S. military once the decision was made to focus on the War on Terrorism. Previously, the default posture was a response to Cold War era threats such as those posed by the former Soviet Union and its allies. That adversary never offered much of an insurgency threat, so a major retooling of strategy was required. Responses to insurgency are not typically intuitive, as the strategy is different than what is used by other adversaries. Insurgency is not terrorism, nor is it necessarily criminal activity. Insurgency is more an attempt to resist against the established government control to effect real change. Insurgency is a rebellion against political authority, using subversion and violence with a specific aim.

The idea of gangs as insurgents is not new. In 1993, Major David Hogg examined the possibility of deploying the military against street gangs in the U.S. He specifically deconstructed the framework and habits of members of the Crips street gang and noted that street gangs were more of a “preservationist insurgency.”[13] He identified the primary goals of street gangs as acquiring monetary profit and providing security. Their violent actions toward other gangs and members of the community he termed urban terrorism. Hogg determined that street gangs were neither a military or political threat, though they were a threat to governance, and concluded that threat did not warrant military intervention.

While it was clear Hogg had sufficiently researched street gangs at the time, it was also clear the gangs he addressed were those in the First Generation, not the more advanced Third Generation (3GEN) gangs likely to be MTGMs. First generation gangs are primarily turf gangs, some of which evolve into drug gangs or entrepreneurial organizations with a market-orientation, becoming part of the second generation. Some second-generation gangs decide to enhance their position, and transition to the third generation. Gangs in the third generation include those with a mix of political and mercenary elements that operate or are at least capable of operating in the global community.[14] Figure 2 depicts the continuum along which the generations lie. All three generations of gangs are capable of generating serious domestic instability and insecurity.


Figure 2. Characteristics of Street Gang Generations

Source: John P. Sullivan “Third Generation Street Gangs: Turf, Cartels and Netwarriors,” Crime & Justice International, Vol. 13, No. 9.2, October/November 1997 and John P. Sullivan, “Third Generation Street Gangs: Turf, Cartels, and Net Warriors.”     Transnational Organized Crime, Vol. 3, No. 3, Autumn 1997, pp. 95-108; Table 1 at p. 96.

The 3GEN Gangs operate in a global environment, and are highly organized and sophisticated. [15] Gang members in such advanced criminal organizations often use tactics that only the military can teach.[16] Authors of the 2009 National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) report identified those gangs as national-level street gangs, which may have established cells in foreign countries that assist the gangs operating in the United States in developing associations with global drug trafficking and other criminal organizations.[17]

Dr. Max Manwaring, professor of military strategy in the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, found that both 3GEN Gangs and insurgents try to control government.[18] All three generations of gangs are able to cause serious domestic instability and insecurity, but 3GEN Gangs can generate the economic and military power on a level with many nation-states.[19]. With a propensity for indiscriminate violence, intimidation, and coercion, they are both a regional and transnational gang phenomenon, and pose a significant national security threat.[20] Wilson and Sullivan found 3GEN Gangs shared many of the characteristics of insurgents.[21]

Criminal Insurgents[22]

The Zetas were created by a group of deserters from the Mexican Special Military Forces. In the late 1990s dozens of Mexican Army commandos left military service to join the Zetas. Many of them had been part of the GAFE.[23] They started as a security force for the Gulf Cartel, a multi-national DTO. The Zetas brought military tactics like ambushes, defensive positions, and small unit exercises to the organized criminal groups in Mexico.[24] Military training was the key to the Zetas’ success, and the increase in military discipline, professionalism, and violence they brought to the criminal world of the DTOs caused rival groups to improve their recruiting and training.

The Zetas have created a brutal mystique, making their name synonymous with violence and fear across the Americas. In addition to drug trafficking, human trafficking, weapons trafficking, kidnapping, and murder, their skills included conducting raids and ambushes, and military tactics to engage in close quarters battle with state security forces.[25] In February 2010, the Zetas broke away from the Cártel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel) and formed their own criminal organization. The Zetas have lost some control of territory in recent years because of a turf war with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). According to the National Gang Intelligence Center, many US street gangs have maintained direct ties with Mexican drug cartels, including Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel and La Familia Michoacana (and presumably with their successor group, Los Caballeros Templarios) to purchase drugs.

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang was started by Salvadoran refugees in Los Angeles in the late 1980s as a defense against aggressive and established L.A. street gangs. The name Mara Salvatrucha, according to some accounts, comes from the La Mara street gang in San Salvador and the ‘Salvatrucha’ guerrillas (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) who fought in the civil war in El Salvador from 1981–1992.[26] During the Salvadoran Civil War, many children as young as 14 were inducted into either the guerrilla or government forces, which gave some of the original MS-13 members paramilitary training. The war also led to masses of refugees fleeing the war looking for work and safety. The war displaced an estimated 1 million Salvadorans, many of whom came to the United States either legally or illegally.[27]

Members of the MS-13 gang have been convicted in various US jurisdictions for racketeering; conspiracy; child prostitution; drug, gun, and human trafficking; gruesome and brutal murders; and vandalizing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New Haven, Connecticut with “MS-13” and “kill whites” in orange spray paint. The gang has a violent reputation and is known for using a machete to maim, disfigure, and kill their victims.

As Hogg noted, insurgents, unlike anarchists, typically seek to affect and provide some level and form of governance. As Manwaring observed, insurgents also try to control established government. Brookings Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown suggested traditional criminal organizations often take on the trappings of governance, behaving like insurgents sometimes do.[28] The example used was the Italian Mafia, but the analysis fit many of today’s insurgents, including DTOs and some 3GEN Gangs. They don’t declare a war against the state, they don’t want to topple the state, but they provide security, norms, and enforce contracts. They tax individuals and organizations (extort money); and they often influence or control politicians and government officials.

Governance was also among the reasons for the intentional segregation and (quite effective) criminal enterprise of the world’s prison gangs, according to Skarbek. Prison gangs unify and align by race (black, white, and brown) to provide governance, which is required in all societies, especially those with an open and active marketplace, such as those where illegal trafficking of drugs, guns, or persons is conducted.[29] As the legitimate institution cannot offer the governance necessary, prison gangs do it. Governance theory suggests that to limit the effects of prison gangs, conditions that caused the environment in which they grow must be changed and substitutions for their inherited functions must be found. The same solution might be proposed for insurgents.

The combination of MTGMs and 3GEN Gangs provides a unique synthesis of skill sets that significantly add to the level of dangerous in a community. When we add criminal insurgencies to the mix, the combination is deadly.[30] In addition to threatening national security, these groups threaten the social fabric of our communities, as well as the economic and political foundational underpinnings of local and state government. Figure 3 depicts the increased level of dangerousness for street gangs with MTGMs and with 3GEN MTGMs.


Figure 3: MTGM Continuum of Dangerousness

Countering Insurgencies

A counterinsurgency (COIN) is a coordinated political, security, economic, and informational effort that reinforces governmental legitimacy while reducing the influence of insurgents over the population. COIN operations using non-military means are often the most effective as they seek to find the root cause(s) of the insurgency. Central to a COIN operation (at least in the beginning) is intelligence gathering and analysis.[31]

Unlike conventional warfare, COIN puts military forces in an enabling and supportive role.[32] COIN requires approaches to be adaptable and agile, focused on the population more than the adversary. The goal is to reinforce the legitimacy of the affected government while reducing insurgent influence. The COIN model used by the U.S. State Department has several functional components:

  • The political function, using a framework of political reconciliation and reform of governance.
  • The economic function, providing essential services and stimulating long term economic growth.
  • The security function, developing both the nation’s military force and security sector, including the related legal framework, civilian oversight mechanisms and the judicial system.
  • The information function, including intelligence and influence that aligns with the strategic narrative.[33]

The more advanced contemporary street gangs have been strategically infiltrating our military communities since the late 1980s. At the end of the 1990s, the FBI attributed much of the increase in gang member migration to the military, in addition to civilian job transfers. When acknowledged and active gang members can join the military, they are treated just like other service members. There are no debriefings, no watch lists, and no warnings to local military law enforcement. Countering insurgent gangs with military training requires an informed perspective and persistent application.

Gangs are recognized as a coercive force, according to the Army Field Manuel on COIN, Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies, FM 3-24 (MCWP 3-33.5), 2006.5.[34] As with other groups categorized as such (paramilitary units, tribal militias, and organizational security personnel), gangs should be seriously considered as potential insurgents or adversaries during all military operations—both during peacetime and during conflict. Criminal organizations such as street gangs, mafias, or cartels may assist insurgent groups in any number of ways, including intimidating government leaders, conducting assassinations and kidnappings, initiating violence, strikes, riots, and smuggling weapons. Many insurgencies degenerate into criminality when primary movements disintegrate, or the root cause is addressed.[35] The manual suggested counter intuitively that insurgent disintegration was desirable. It resulted in a downgrade of the threat, since insurgency was a security threat and criminality was (simply) a law-and-order problem.

The typical police perspective, that of law enforcement and order maintenance, tends to be similar to the role filled by our soldiers when conducting COIN operations. By application, COIN operations are long-term, and the foundation that is laid during the initial phases must be solid. Only by engaging and interacting with the population in an appropriately respectful manner can a proper foundation for continued relations be laid. The practice of cultural awareness provides for such an engagement.

Part of the COIN effort involves applying intercultural skills. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Michael Rothstein, while at the Air War College, identified the need to develop those skills in military leadership. He identified intercultural skills as the primary set of skills and knowledge necessary for professional and personal interaction with people of other cultures. He divided intercultural skills into three subsets; cultural awareness, regional understanding, and foreign language competency.[36] He defined cultural awareness as “the ability to understand and appreciate differences among cultures and to be sensitive to the unique challenges cultural differences can create.” LTC Rothstein observed that many Americans do not appreciate the culture of others because they don’t understand or appreciate their own. Other military scholars have addressed the importance of cultural awareness by the military, too.

Marine Colonel Michael Melillo, a field artillery officer who was the Chief, Operations and Training Branch, at the Security Cooperation Education and Training Center, noted that Americans had difficulty with cultural awareness because they were part of a culture that ignored the needs of irregular warfare.[37] As a remedy, he suggested transforming the cultural resistance to nontraditional wars.  Manwaring suggested the solution was to avoid the tendency toward “providing traditional military solutions to conventional military problems.”[38]

Cultural awareness provides an understanding of the social networks, politics, and traditions of a location; it also provides an understanding of the nuances, behavioral customs, and rules for common interaction. By observing those less-visible subtleties, what was different might be more important to take note of than what was missing. For example, if a certain citizen (Mr. A) was suspected of collaborating with insurgents and he was seen talking to Mr. B, that might be unusual if it occurred in a manner or location where the two would not otherwise meet or converse. The penalty for not applying cultural awareness in a policing operation involving MTGMs may be the loss of intelligence or the loss of evidence.

The use of cultural awareness when addressing military-trained gang members (MTGMs) might allow for a better understanding of potential solutions to the problem. It might also result in a ‘relatability’ between the investigator and the gang member that could prove invaluable for gathering additional intelligence to ensure appropriate anti-gang strategies were in place. The penalty for not applying cultural awareness in a counterinsurgency operation is either the loss of the population’s trust or the fostering of an environment in which the insurgent forces can grow.[39]

MTGMs as Criminal Insurgents

Imagination isn’t necessary to see the threat posed MTGMs in organized insurgencies. As with their membership in basic street gangs, the level of leadership, strategy, and dangerousness is increased. To oppose these groups, governments must use coordinated, evidence-based strategies, including a focus on public relations. These groups are well versed in appealing to the people, and whether the media reports developments or not, the people in the community will choose sides.

The NGIC’s 2017 National Gang Report noted that Mexican DTOs (including the Zetas) have the greatest impact on drug trafficking in the United States[40]. The NGIC report included information on the street gang – DTO relationships (including 3GEN Gangs) in U.S. states, identified in Table 1.


Table 1.  Street Gang and Cartel Associations by State

In April 2018, Guatemalan Infantry colonel Ariel Salvador de Leon was found to have upper-level MS-13 connections. Col. de Leon had been in the Kaibil (Guatemalan special forces) and was trained by the U.S. Southern Command in Honduras and El Salvador border security operations. The one-time Ministry of Defense vice-director was arrested for helping a cell of MS-13 launder money. De Leon was arrested as part of the Regional Shield II operation, targeting gang leaders who extorted business owners.[41]

Imagine a 3GEN Gang or DTO with a propaganda team that practices techniques learned in the military.  Too much of a stretch of the imagination? These groups already have drones and practice counter-drone operations. Should we be concerned if they have access to robots or start using augmented reality goggles as they use swarming and other asymmetrical non-traditional warfighting tactics against the local police? Advanced 3GEN Gangs and DTOs are capable of so much more than their less dangerous brethren in crime. Adding military training and discipline to the mix does nothing but add fuel to the fire. Are we prepared for the level of violence these groups can inflict?


MTGMs pose a real threat in our communities. The majority of the population does not realize they exist, nor are they aware of the seriousness of the threat to the safety of the community. This note was intended to examine the synergy of advanced criminal gangs and an insurgent strategy in our society and encourage scholars, practitioners, and government leaders to conduct or support research concerning this issue and find strategies to control the problem or mitigate the effects.

Additional Reading

Robert J. Bunker and John P.  Sullivan (2013). Studies in Gangs and Cartels. London: Routledge.

National Gang Intelligence Center [NGIC]. (2005-2017). National Gang Reports 2005-2017. Washington, DC: National Gang Intelligence Center.

Carter F. Smith (2017). Gangs and the Military: Gangsters, Bikers, and Terrorists with Military Training. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

U.S. Army Field Manual (FM) Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies, FM 3-24 (MCWP 3-33.5), 2006.5

End Notes

[1] Ernst Falco (2018). “‘The training stays with you’: the elite Mexican soldiers recruited by cartels.” The Guardian, 10 February;

[2] Ibid.

[3] Carter F. Smith (2017). Gangs and the Military: Gangsters, Bikers, and Terrorists with Military Training. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Carter F. Smith (2018). “Gangs and the Military (GATM) Note 1: The Increased Threat of Third Generation Gangs with Military-Trained Gang Members.” Small Wars Journal, 18 April;

[6] National Gang Intelligence Center [NGIC] (2015). National Gang Report - 2015. Washington, DC: National Gang Intelligence Center;

[7] National Gang Intelligence Center [NGIC] (2009). National Gang Report - 2009. Washington, DC: National Gang Intelligence Center, (p.13);

[8] Ibid.

[9] U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command (2017). Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) Gang and Domestic Extremist Activity Threat Assessment (GDEATA).

[10] National Gang Intelligence Center [NGIC] (2017). National Gang Report - 2017. Washington, DC: National Gang Intelligence Center;

[11] Ibid.

[12] Gregg S. Etter and Erica L. Lehmuth (2013). “The Mexican Drug Wars: Organized Crime, Narco-Terrorism, Insurgency or Asymmetric Warfare?” Journal of Gang Research, Summer, 20(4), pp. 1–34, 2013. Retrieved from

[13] David R. Hogg (1993). A Military Campaign Against Gangs: Internal Security Operations in the United States by Active Duty Forces. Ft. Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, (DTIC ADA274041). Retrieved from

[14] John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker (2007). “Third generation gang studies: An introduction.” Journal of Gang Research, 14(4), pp. 1-10.  Retrieved from

[15] Ibid.

[16] Smith, GATM Note 1.

[17] NGIC, 2009.

[18] Max G. Manwaring (2005). Street gangs: The new urban insurgency. Carlisle Barracks: Strategic Studies Institute, 1 March;

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] G.I.Wilson and John P. Sullivan (2007). “On gangs, crime and terrorism,” Defense and the National Interest. Retrieved from

[22] For a discussion of ‘criminal insurgency’ see John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker (2011). “Rethinking insurgency: criminality, spirituality, and societal warfare in the Americas.” Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol. 22, Issue 5, pp. 742-763;

[23] Smith, 2017.

[24] John P. Sullivan and Samuel Logan (2010). “Los Zetas: Massacres, Assassinations and Infantry Tactics.” The Counter Terrorist, October/November, pp. 44-57. Retrieved from

[25] Sullivan and Logan, 2010.

[26] Smith, 2017.

[27] Celinda Franco (2008). The MS-13 and 18th Street Gangs—Emerging Transnational Gang Threats. Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report to Congress (RL34233). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from

[28] Octavian Manea (2013). “ Gangs, Slums, Megacities and the Utility of Population-Centric COIN: Interview with Brookings Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown,” Small Wars Journal, 5 October;

[29] David Skarbek (2014). The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System. New York: Oxford University Press;

[30] See Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan (2007). “Iraq & the Americas: 3 GEN Gangs Lessons and Prospects.” Small Wars Journal, 30 April;

for an early discussion of the convergence of gangs and military operations.

[31] Robert R. Tomes, (2004). “Relearning Counterinsurgency Warfare,” Parameters (Spring), pp. 16–28;

[32] U.S. State Department. (2009) U.S. government counterinsurgency guide. United States government interagency counterinsurgency initiative. Washington, D.C: State Department;

[33] Ibid.

[34] Field Manual (FM) 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5 (May 2014). Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies. Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army. Retrieved from

[35] Ibid.

[36] Michael D. Rothstein, M.D., LTC (2006). “Fire, ready, aim: Developing intercultural skills during officer formal education.” Montgomery, AL: Air War College, Air University., September 29. Retrieved from

[37] Michael R. Melillo, (2006). “Outfitting a Big-War Military with Small-War Capabilities.” Parameters (Autumn), pp. 22–35;

[38] Manwaring, 2005.

[39] Ibid.

[40] NGIC, 2017.

[41] TeleSUR. (2018). “Guatemalan General Leading US Training Arrested for MS-13.” teleSUR, 22 April;



Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Carter F. Smith, J. D., Ph.D. is the Graduate Coordinator for the Department of Criminal Justice Administration at Middle Tennessee State University, in Murfreesboro, TN. As a U.S. Army CID Special Agent, Carter was involved in military and federal law enforcement for over twenty years and identified the growing gang problem in the military community in the early 1990s, later starting the Army’s first Gang & Extremist investigations team at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Carter received a Ph.D. from Northcentral University after completing his dissertation on military-trained gang members. He received a law degree from Southern Illinois University.  Carter has provided training on Gangs and their impact on the community to many gatherings and conferences, including those sponsored by the Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mid-Atlantic, Mississippi, North Carolina, Northwest, Oklahoma, Southern California, Southern Nevada, and Tennessee Gang Investigators Associations, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, the National Crime Prevention Council, the Regional Organized Crime Information Center, the National Gang Crime Research Center, the Southern Criminal Justice Association, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Army.  He has written many articles, consulted with several media outlets, written two textbooks on gangs, and has appeared twice in the History Channel’s Gangland series. He was a founding board member of the Tennessee Gang Investigators Association, a recipient of the Army CID Command Special Agent of the Year award and is a three-time recipient of the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award of the National Gang Crime Research Center. Carter recently published the book Gangs and the Military: Gangsters, Bikers, and Terrorists with Military Training.