A herculean effort
Posted by LT Stephanie Young, Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The HC-130 Hercules aircraft is a mainstay of the United States Coast Guard air fleet. The service’s history with the airplane dates back to 1958, and the “Herc” continues to prove itself time and again. Operated by a crew of seven, the Hercules can airdrop life rafts, deliver critical supplies or survey a coastline after a natural disaster. But for the 190 members stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, the Hercules does more than just proves itself – it sets the bar for excellence.
Last year, Air Station Sacramento crews flew nearly 2,000 hours on counternarcotics patrol resulting in the seizure of more than two tons of marijuana, approximately 4.5 tons of cocaine and the apprehension of 28 narco-terrorists. For their superior performance in the interdiction of illicit drugs during 2011, Air Station Sacramento received the United States Interdiction Coordinator Fixed Wing Aviation Award.
It was a “three-peat” for the air station, as this was Sacramento’s third consecutive award for superior effectiveness in counternarcotics operations among all Coast Guard fixed-wing aviation units.
“All our federal and international partners play important roles in stemming the flow of illegal drugs, but the counter-narcotics work of our Sacramento-based long-range aircraft is an important mission that rarely receives much public attention,” said Rear Adm. Karl Schultz, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. “With few long-range surface assets available for patrols in the Eastern Pacific, the role of our aviators in spotting and tracking smuggling vessels is more important than ever. This award makes it clear that the law enforcement work of the men and women at Air Station Sacramento is extraordinarily vital and successful.”
Their success didn’t come without hard work, and a lot of time away from home. Sacramento-based aircrews flew a total of 269 missions and were deployed 306 days in support of counterdrug missions as they provided advanced surveillance and tracking of drug trafficking vessels off the coasts of California, the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific Ocean. The air station increased patrol hours off California by 134 percent over the previous year, resulting in a 200 percent increase in busts in the 11th Coast Guard District.
A highlight from their 2011 operations included a bust aboard the motor vessel Mariscos Trader in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, resulting in the seizure of 3.4 tons of cocaine valued at $82 million and the arrest of nine narco-terrorists.
In April 2011, a bust brought down an entire offshore narcotics operation in the Eastern Pacific including a self propelled, semi-submersible, two go-fasts and a support vessel. The bust resulted in the seizure of 370 pounds of cocaine valued at $4.5 million and the arrest of seven narco-terrorists.
Air Station Sacramento also provided critical airlift support in November 2011. An aircrew transported a Department of Homeland Security team and their equipment to San Diego in order to interdict a tunnel smuggling operation. The team made a historic interdiction of 65,000 pounds of marijuana with six arrests, shutting down a major tunnel smuggling operation. The team’s rapid response, was made possible by Sacramento’s airlift support, played a crucial role in the success of this operation.
Air Station Sacramento, with the help of some “Hercs,” continues to lean forward in the execution of our nation’s counternarcotics efforts. By employing the latest technology, developing the most effective tactics and deploying proficient crews, the air station is aggressively taking the fight to the enemy.