By Ensign Michael Singer, USS GARY (FFG 51) Public Affairs Officer
EASTERN PACIFIC, (at Sea) (NNS) -- USS Gary (FFG 51), her embarked Helicopter Squadron and U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment successfully intercepted a suspected narcotic-trafficking vessel in international waters off the coast of Central America in early March.
This interdiction conducted in coordination with U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell (WHEC-719) and the Canadian Navy vessel HMCS Whitehorse (MM-705) is estimated at more than 5,200 kilograms of cocaine, the largest seizure in the eastern Pacific Ocean since 2009.
This marks Gary's tenth successful interdiction since October 2014, disrupting a total of 11,700 kilograms of cocaine shipments off the coast of Central America.
While conducting routine patrols off the Central American coast, Gary located and trailed a small coastal freighter. After launching her SH-60B helicopter to assess the vessel, Gary observed the merchant vessel's crew jettisoning suspected contraband into the water.
Gary quickly launched her small boat with a joint Navy and Coast Guard boat crew to recover the suspected contraband. Upon confirming the suspect objects in the water tested positive for cocaine, the USCG LEDET team boarded and assumed control of the merchant vessel along with Gary crew members who helped search the ship and provided, engineering and navigation teams.
Gary's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Steven McDowell, stated, "This particular interdiction called for a much larger 'footprint' than we have typically needed to conduct routine operations. It is situations like this where superb training and flawless execution are critical to success. The crew absolutely delivered."
"Teamwork and persistence are the keys to success in countering the transnational criminal organizations behind the drug trade," said Cmdr. Chris German, deputy chief of law enforcement operations for the 11th Coast Guard District.
"U.S. and Canadian navy ships extend the reach of Coast Guard's law enforcement teams, and the cooperation and assistance of partner nations help us keep deadly drugs off the streets of all our nations. Stopping this shipment saved lives and helps degrade the smugglers deadly and corrosive enterprise," he said.
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Gary is currently deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Martillo, which began in January 2012.
Operation Martillo, a joint, international law enforcement and military operation involving the U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nations, targets illicit trafficking routes in the waters off Central America. U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) leads the U.S. military involvement in the Joint Operation Task Force.
Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is done by a joint agency task force headquartered in Key West, Florida. U.S. maritime law enforcement and the interdiction phase of operations in the region occur under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, California.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet support USSOUTHCOM's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.