The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE U.S. COAST GUARD

Coast Guard seizes $68 million in cocaine

BOSTON — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell returned to its homeport in Kittery Sunday following a two-month counter-drug patrol in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The 270-foot medium endurance cutter was deployed in support of Joint Interagency Task-Force South (JIATF-S) with the primary mission of interdicting illegal narcotics in the transit zone. Prior to entering the assigned operational area, the cutter embarked an MH-65 helicopter, from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) unit based out of Jacksonville, Fla.

While patrolling in drug transit zones in the Eastern Pacific off of Central and South America, the cutter used organic sensors and maritime patrol aircraft to identify targets of interest. Following the identification of profile drug trafficking vessels, Campbell’s crew launched its helicopter and small boat, with an embarked pursuit team, to successfully disrupt three narcotics smuggling ventures, seize 2,316 kilograms of cocaine valued at $68 million and detain three suspected smugglers.

The law enforcement phases of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific are conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, Calif. Campbell’s crew also worked closely with four other Coast Guard cutters to transport an additional 2,200 kilograms of cocaine and 11 suspected smugglers.

Also during the patrol, crewmembers joined with government leaders to celebrate the building of a new Costa Rican Coast Guard station in Golfito. The occasion was marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and parade, followed by an official tour of the cutter. Officials discussed ways to enhance counter-narcotic operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, reinforcing the common goal to strengthen international relationships in order to be more mutually effective in securing borders.

“Patrolling from the Southern Hemisphere to the New England Coast, Campbell‘s crew excelled in their assigned missions during our 65-day deployment,” said Cmdr. Mark McDonnell, the Campbell’s commanding officer. “They supported the commandant’s western hemisphere strategy by interdicting over 2,300 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $68 million, removing cocaine bound for the United States and helping to dismantle criminal networks.”

McDonnell added that the crew was honored to represent the U.S. Coast Guard for the dedication of the new Costa Rican Coast Guard Base in Golfito, and then host President Solís, the first lady and U.S. Ambassador Haney for an official visit aboard Campbell.

“Strengthening partnerships with Central American countries such as Costa Rica greatly enhances our mission effectiveness in the drug transit zone,” said McDonnell.

During the deployment, Campbell steamed more than 12,550 nautical miles and crossed the equator, at one point being the southernmost cutter deployed in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

Campbell is a 28-year-old Famous Class Cutter that has been homeported in Kittery since 2003. The crew is composed of approximately 100 personnel, including 86 enlisted and 14 officers.


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