The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Campbell interdicted a go-fast vessel, detained four suspected Colombian drug smugglers and seized approximately 2,420 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated wholesale value of $29 million while on patrol in the Caribbean Sea Aug. 20.
The crew of a Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft initially detected the four men aboard a 36-foot go-fast boat during a law enforcement patrol on the evening of Aug. 19, south of the Dominican Republic.
Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the Campbell to interdict the suspect vessel, while Dominican Republic navy authorities also responded with multiple marine units. The crew of the the HC-144 and Customs and Border Protection agents aboard a CBP maritime patrol aircraft, monitored the suspect vessel's transit and guided in the Campbell's crew to eventually complete the interdiction.
The suspected smugglers attempted to flee as the Dominican authorities closed in at the same time the crew of the Campbell deployed the cutter's smallboat. After a two hour chase by both the cutter and the smallboat crew, the suspect vessel was interdicted.
A Coast Guard boarding team from the Campbell detained the four suspected drug smugglers and located 44 bales of contraband hidden inside the vessel. Further testing revealed the contraband shipment to be a total of 2,420 pounds of cocaine.
"This interdiction was a result of outstanding teamwork between responding U.S. and partner Dominican Republic law enforcement authorities", said Cmdr. Kurt Virkaitis, commanding officer of the cutter Campbell. "By combining our resources in a well coordinated effort we successfully prevented a large drug shipment from reaching U.S. shores and are bringing four suspected drug smugglers to justice."
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Cushing transferred custody of the suspected drug smugglers and the sample of the seized contraband U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration personnel in the Dominican Republic for further processing and investigation.
The crew of the Campbell proceeded to transport the 44 bales of cocaine to Mayport, Fla., for final offload and transfer to DEA authorities.
The Coast Guard Cutter Campbell is a 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Portsmouth, N.H., while the Coast Guard Cutter Cushing is a 110-foot patrol boat homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Medium endurance cutters like the Campbell are slated for replacement by new Offshore Patrol Cutters. The new OPCs will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard's maritime security and safety activities in support of national interests. The OPC will be an economical, multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interoperability with other military and federal partners, superior to the cutters they replace. Equipped with modern sensors, the OPCs will provide the enhanced surveillance necessary to detect threats far from U.S. shores and meet the demands of the Coast Guard's homeland security, search and rescue, law enforcement and other vital missions.
The cutter Cushing and other Island-class patrol boats are being replaced by 58 new, Sentinel-class fast response cutters. The FRC will be capable of speeds in excess of 28 knots and operating in seas up to 18-feet. The FRC delivers tremendous lifesaving, law enforcement and homeland security capabilities in the same package.
Submitted by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jessica Potter