Reporting aboard in the drug zone

Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets

Petty Officer 3rd Class Lawrence Flennoy poses in Coast Guard Cutter Active's engine room while on patrol in the Eastern Pacific. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Lawrence Flennoy poses in Coast Guard Cutter Active’s engine room while on patrol in the Eastern Pacific. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets.

Transferring to a new unit is stressful. Transferring to a unit currently underway on an international counter narcotics patrol is even more so.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Lawrence Flennoy, a machinery technician, recently flew to Mexico and reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Active during the cutter’s Joint Interagency Task Force South patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Flennoy, a recent graduate of machinery technician “A” school, is excited about serving aboard a new platform.

“I’ve been on a patrol boat before, so I wanted to see what a bigger cutter was like. I thought it would be a really good experience,” said Flennoy.

The Active was working with 14 other nations to stop transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. A month prior to Flennoy reporting aboard, the Active interdicted over 882 pounds of cocaine.

The Active received a report from a maritime patrol aircraft of a northbound panga in international waters with suspected contraband on board. They were vectored in by the MPA, arrived on scene and conducted a boarding.

“We got on board and realized 16 of the fuel drums onboard seemed suspect,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Devoid. “They appeared to be made out of fiberglass and just by feeling them they were way heavier than a normal one with fuel in it.”

The boarding team passed back their suspicion of the fuel canisters and received permission to do an intrusive search. Upon drilling three holes in one of the canisters they hit a white powder substance. The substance tested positive as cocaine. The three people on the boat were taken into custody aboard the Active.

Coast Guardsmen from the Cutter Active from Port Angeles, Wash., inspect a panga that was suspected of trafficking cocaine Feb. 28, 2015. The Active returns April 12 from a deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Central and South America. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Chase Logan.

Coast Guardsmen from the Cutter Active from Port Angeles, Wash., inspect a panga that was suspected of trafficking cocaine Feb. 28, 2015. The Active returns April 12 from a deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Central and South America. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Chase Logan.

“There are a lot of unknowns when doing a boarding,” said Devoid. “Luckily, we get a lot of good training to prepare us.”

Flennoy is no stranger to the law enforcement community; he’s been around it his entire life. His mother is a corrections officer, his father a certified peace officer and his grandfather was in the Chicago Police Department.

“I knew I wanted to go military or law enforcement, and the Coast Guard will let me do both,” said Flennoy. “I was a boarding team member on my last boat, and hopefully I can do it here, too.”

As a newly reported member of the engineering department aboard Active, Flennoy is expected to become qualified as an engineering watchstander, as well as complete drawings of all the pipes running throughout the cutter.

“I instantly felt a part of the crew when I first showed up,” said Flennoy. “They’ve been really helpful. They’ve all gone out of their way to help me out with my qualifications.”

The Coast Guard Cutter Active is an important cog in the American counter narcotics machine. As any piece of complex equipment, it needs dedicated members like Flennoy to keep the engines running smoothly.

“I hope to have a better understanding of engines and generators and everything machinery,” said Flennoy. “I love getting my hands dirty, and I hear there’s lots of turning wrenches on here.”

The Active is a good fit for Flennoy. It too has a storied history of law enforcement. For nearly 50 years it has been patrolling the waters off the west coast as well as Central America, keeping mariners safe and illicit drugs out of America.

Despite the stress of flying out of country to meet his new cutter, meeting a new crew, becoming aquainted with his new 210-foot home, and getting qualified in all things engineering and damage control, Flennoy is taking it all in stride.

“I love it,” said Flennoy. “I’m hoping we can get another drug bust soon so I can experience that.”

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