5 drug busts + 2 months = $135 million of cocaine

Crewmembers aboard Coast Guard Cutter Resolute offload 168 bales of cocaine at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg May 31, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mike De Nyse.

Crewmembers aboard Coast Guard Cutter Resolute offload 168 bales of cocaine at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg May 31, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mike De Nyse.

What happened when a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment and medium endurance cutter teamed up with a U.S. Navy frigate and Customs and Border Protection? A total of 168 bales of cocaine, worth more than $135 million, never made it on to the streets of America.

U.S Navy and Coast Guard personnel assigned to the guided-missile frigate USS Elrod pick up bales of narcotics during recovery operations April 21, 2012 in the Caribbean Sea. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andy Barrera.

U.S Navy and Coast Guard personnel assigned to the guided-missile frigate USS Elrod pick up bales of narcotics during recovery operations April 21, 2012 in the Caribbean Sea. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andy Barrera.

Occurring during a two-month period, the five separate interdictions were a result of Operation Martillo. Spanish for “hammer,” Operation Martillo, is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along Central America.

The first of the interdictions occurred with the USS Elrod, a 453-foot Navy guided missile frigate. The Elrod and an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment team were on patrol in the Caribbean Sea March 20 when a Customs and Border Protection airplane detected a suspicious vessel and directed crewmembers towards the fishing vessel. When the vessel was boarded, they found 18 bales of cocaine and detained four suspects who were transferred to law enforcement agents in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Exactly a month later, while still patrolling in the Caribbean, a Customs and Border Protection airplane detected a go-fast vessel and vectored crewmembers aboard Elrod to it. Altogether, crewmembers recovered 89 bales of contraband aboard the go-fast, later testing positive for cocaine.

The 270-foot Coast Guard Cutter Legare at homeport in Portsmouth, Va. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David A. Weydert.

The 270-foot Coast Guard Cutter Legare at homeport in Portsmouth, Va. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David A. Weydert.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Coast Guard Cutter Legare made two go-fast interdictions in a 48-hour period, again with the help of Customs and Border Protection. A helicopter crew from the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, or HITRON, spotted a go-fast vessel with three crewmembers aboard and bales on deck. Crewmembers from Legare were able to recover four bales and one kilogram of cocaine from the water.

“The ability of flight deck equipped ships combined with HITRON capabilities is a robust force multiplier in counternarcotics strategy,” said Cmdr. Kevin Carroll, commanding officer of Legare. “This well-matched combination of assets allows us to effectively and efficiently interdict drugs in the transit zone, far from U.S. shores.”

“Interdiction here, in the open ocean, is important because we’re preventing the drugs from ever reaching land where loads are typically dispersed into smaller shipments for transport via land borders and are more difficult to detect.”

Just five days later there was still time for one more drug bust as a Customs and Border Protection airplane detected another go-fast vessel and directed crewmembers aboard Elrod to it. The Coast Guard law enforcement detachment team, attached to the Elrod, boarded the vessel, located 10 loose kilograms of cocaine and retrieved 57 bales of cocaine from the water. Five suspects were detained and later transferred to law enforcement agents in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Coast Guard and partner agencies continue to do well in the challenging drug interdiction mission but modern and more capable vessels are increasingly required to combat emerging threats.

An aerial photo of the guided-missile frigate USS Elrod taken April 21, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andy Barrera.

An aerial photo of the guided-missile frigate USS Elrod taken April 21, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andy Barrera.

The decades-old medium endurance cutters are slated for replacement by a new class of cutters – the offshore patrol cutter. With the ability to operate more than 50 miles from land, the offshore patrol cutter will be a multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interoperability with other military and federal partners.

It takes existing partnerships and dedicated crews to meet the demands of the drug interdiction mission. And whether crews interdict illicit cargo from the rising threat of drug subs, or find success interdicting drugs smuggled in via more traditional methods, their partnerships reap huge rewards in a safer more secure nation.

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  • hank roesing

    GO NAVY/COAST GUARD TEAMWORK !!

  • Polo

    Great job!!!

  • http://CGBlog.org/ Chuck Hill

    Soon all the frigates will be gone. 

  • Coastie4ever

    Nicley Done Indeed !!  Navy & Coast Guard work great together with the Drug operations. And who cares if the Frigates are going away, they will just replace them with something that will continue this effort.

  • Cynthia

    USCG and their crew are to be commended.Great job!

  • Elizabeth

    Congratulations Coasties!!!  Job well done. May you all return home safely knowing that we are very proud of the work that you do for us.  A Mom of a Coastie…
     

  • Coastie Mom

    Great job Coast Guard!

  • Princehanif50

    USCG and their are only apprehending minute loads. However, America makes soooooooooo much money off of illicit proceeds its ridiculous(aka, its NEVER GOING TO END), so just enjoy.

  • Peter Marshall

    Keep up the great work

  • Daniel E Morisset

    Love the Interdiction of Cocain form reaching our shores!  Great Job!

    Semper Paratus
    AETC-R

  • Coastie Mom

    So proud of the work you do…… Congratulations Coasties!!!

  • Abqcarl

    Nice busts DHS brothers and sisters!

  • Think Thank

    Well Done HOOOOAH

  • Mimick82

    U TOOK THE WORDS RIGHT OUT OF MY MOUTH!

  • Mimick82

    LOL! I BET YOUR SO PROUD THAT YOUR CHILD WILL BE DOING THE SAME THING EVERYDAY…FIGHTING A “WAR” THAT THEY WILL NEVER WIN! HOW CAN YOU FELL GOOD ABOUT SOMETHING THAT YOU WILL NEVER WIN??? BEYOND ME…BUT YOU KEEP ON BEING PROUD! LOL

  • USCGFan

    USCG rocks! Don’t worry about h8trs…you’re doing awesome work and producing amazing results! Keep up the awesome work!

  • Tinsley Grey Sammons

    Help end the insane, unconstitutional, and downright criminal Drug War. Google: AMERICA’S FORSAKEN PROMISE.

    Tinsley Grey Sammons (1936 –)