Crew members aboard an HC-130 Hercules airplane from Air Station Barbers Point monitor surveillance equipment for suspected of drug trafficking in the Eastern Pacific, Jan. 25, 2016. Military patrol aircraft search for drug traffickers around the clock in an attempt to reduce illegal drug activity in the region. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa E. McKenzie.

In the Zone: Workhorse of the Pacific

The smell of coffee, sweat and hydraulic fluid permeates the air. Music echoes in the background: the beat gaining momentum as the night drags on. Workers in oil-stained coveralls and latex gloves swarm the hangar wielding tools befitting a surgeon’s operating table. The hours grow long and the coffee brews stronger. The prickling sense of urgency lingers as grease-covered hands dissect the beast’s anatomy: every turn of the wrench is precise, calculated. Each stitch buys one more flight, one more mission and one more safe return.