CHARLESTON, S.C. — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton returned home Sunday to Charleston after completing an 80-day patrol throughout the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The crew offloaded $324 million worth of cocaine and marijuana Friday at Port Everglades.
Hamilton’s crew, along with an aviation detachment from the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron began their deployment in late January by serving as the first National Security Cutter to participate in a Navy Composite Training Unit Exercise. For three weeks, Hamilton integrated with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and ships and aircraft of Carrier Strike Group Ten to test the strike group’s ability to carry out sustained combat operations at sea. Hamilton’s commanding officer, Captain Timothy Cronin, said the event highlighted the unique capabilities of the Coast Guard’s 418-foot National Security Cutter.
“Our success in this critical exercise demonstrated how the Coast Guard can seamlessly integrate with joint forces around the globe to advance our national security strategy,” said Cronin.
During February, Hamilton deployed to the Eastern Pacific Ocean as part of a partnership that falls under the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South, a component of U.S. Southern Command. JIATF South oversees the detection and monitoring of illicit traffickers and assists law enforcement agencies with interdiction.
Hamilton’s crew seized three drug-laden vessels and apprehended eight suspected traffickers. Two of the vessels were semi-submersibles, vessels built low to the waterline to avoid detection. The two suspected smugglers purposely scuttled their vessel in an alleged attempt to prevent Hamilton’s crew from locating any contraband. Hamilton’s law enforcement team detained the suspects and turned them over to the Drug Enforcement Agency for potential prosecution.
Hamilton also assisted in the removal of another seven tons of cocaine and 1,400 pounds of marijuana seized from a heavily trafficked transit zone by Coast Guard Cutters Legare, Vigilant, Tampa, Tahoma, Steadfast, Mohawk, Navy vessel USS Tornado, and the Canadian vessel HMCS Nanaimo.
The Coast Guard and partner agency efforts in the Eastern Pacific are critical to disrupting and dismantling the transnational criminal organizations that attempt to smuggle drugs through the ocean and into Central and North America. Maritime interdictions also help reduce the violence and instability caused by transnational criminal organizations in Central America.
“This is about more than piles of drugs never reaching our city streets,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Tetzlaff, an operations specialist. “By keeping this threat far from our shores, we make for a safer and more secure United States.”
The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton is one of two 418-foot National Security Cutters homeported in Charleston. With its robust command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment, the NSC is the most technologically advanced ship in the Coast Guard’s fleet. NSCs are equipped with three state-of-the-art small boats and a stern boat launch system, dual aviation facilities, and serve as an afloat command and control platform for complex law enforcement and national security missions involving the Coast Guard and numerous partner agencies.