While conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility, a Sikorsky MH-60R multi-mission helicopter from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 37, embarked in Chafee, sighted a small boat with three passengers and two outboard engines.
The pilots determined the vessel’s characteristics met the description of vessels that frequently traffic narcotics in Central and South America and investigated further. As the helicopter approached the small craft, the passengers began jettisoning the boat’s contents. The helicopter crew identified 37 bales of an unknown substance, and coordinated with the ship that deployed the small boat crew utilizing a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) to recover the floating packages.
Once the bales were onboard, Chafee’s Command Master-at-Arms confirmed the substance was cocaine.
“This would have been impossible without the vigilance of the ship’s crew, the aviation department and the maintainers that allow the aircraft to operate on time,” he said. “The crew worked incredibly together, utilizing multiple facets of our capabilities to achieve this success.”
During the recovery, the ship’s crew also discovered a solar-powered GPS tracking buoy attached to the bales of narcotics.
“Every member aboard Chafee performed superbly during this mission, said Chafee’s RHIB boat officer during the recovery. “Knowing our efforts translate to real successes by disrupting illicit drug trafficking, reinforces our mission and provides a sense of self-worth for the entire crew.”
Chafee turned over custody of the narcotics to the U.S. Coast Guard.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet support U.S. Southern Command’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.