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, 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 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 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,” said Joe Ethridge, chief of the agency’s Criminal Intelligence Division.
“Outlaw Motorcycle Gang members will attend these functions as well. It is well documented 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 percent” 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.
Service members can obtain 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.