USCGC Legare (WMEC 912) returned home in April after a 12-week counter-narcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
The Legare crew patrolled over 19,500 miles throughout the heart of the Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of Campaign Martillo, working in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and other partner nation agencies.
“This was a highly successful patrol, resulting from our crew’s tireless preparation and hard work,” said Cmdr. Malcolm Belt, the commanding officer of Legare. “I am extremely proud of the crew’s professionalism, mission execution, and teamwork to prevent these drugs from crossing our borders.”
With the assistance of its embarked Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) aviation detachment based out of Jacksonville, Florida, Legare’s crew successfully interdicted six go-fast vessels with over 13,500 lbs of illicit narcotics and detained 17 smugglers. Legare’s team partnered with the USCGC Kimball (WMSL 756) crew based in Hawaii during one interdiction.
Legare’s crew demonstrated the service’s multi-mission capabilities and assisted eight Colombian fishers whose vessel was adrift more than 100 nautical miles from shore. Engineers from Legare affected repairs to the vessel’s engine and electrical system, allowing the crew to return safely to port aboard their boat.
While Legare was transiting back to homeport through the Caribbean Sea, the HITRON crew detected another go-fast vessel. It disrupted the activity, forcing the go-fast crew to jettison their contraband. While unable to intercept the boat, Legare’s team recovered an additional 2,400 lbs of illicit narcotics, bringing the patrol total to 15,900 lbs worth over $171 million in street value.
Legare concluded a similar patrol in October of eight weeks, yielding 1,300 lbs of illegal narcotics worth an estimated street value of more than $24.6 million.
Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security cooperated in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations.
The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases, from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions for these interdictions by United States Attorney’s Offices from districts throughout the nation. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the U.S. Coast Guard Eleventh District, headquartered in Alameda, California. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Caribbean Sea is conducted under the authority of the Seventh Coast Guard District, headquartered in Miami. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard members.
The Legare is a 270-foot Famous-class medium-endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, under the command of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. Based in Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area oversees all Coast Guard operations east of the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf. Also, they allocate ships to deploy to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific to combat transnational organized crime and illicit maritime activity.