The Coast Guard cutter Steadfast returned to its Astoria, Oregon homeport on March 14, following a 69-day counternarcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, during which they confiscated over 7,500 pounds of cocaine valued at $85.6 million.
The Steadfast had deployed with a Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and air crew based in Jacksonville, Fla., along with temporarily assigned crew from the Coast Guard cutter Harriet Lane and soon-to-be commissioned Coast Guard cutter Argus.
When notified by a Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of a suspected narcotics smuggling vessel transiting international waters, the Steadfast launched a crew and boarding team that interdicted the vessel after a many-hour pursuit.
The Coast Guard said the suspected smugglers jettisoned contraband, resulting of disruption of 2,260 pounds of cocaine valued at $25.6 million.
The Steadfast crew tracked another suspected vessel with assistance of a Mexican Navy surveillance aircraft, and launched a boat crew and helicopter aircrew while the Mexican maritime patrol aircraft traced the vessel. Once the Steadfast crew boat and helicopter crews reached the suspect vessel, they seized 3,300 pounds of cocaine valued at $37.5 million.
The next day, the Steadfast launched another boat and aircrew to intercept another suspect vessel and worked with a nearby Mexican naval vessel to vector in a Mexican naval helicopter, resulting in seizure of 1,984 pounds of cocaine valued at $22.5 million.
Cmdr. Brock S. Eckel, commanding officer of the Steadfast, said the successful coordination between a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and Mexican MPA was a significant step in advancing the strategic partnership in combatting the flow of illicit narcotics in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
“The crew’s operational success was matched only by the strengthening of international and inter-agency relationships along the way,” Eckel said.