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How Our Coast Guard Men and Women Prevented Tragedy

They swore an oath to defend our nation — this latest effort is one of many valiant endeavors on their part

The crystalline blue water of the Caribbean Sea was recently spared the nefarious wake of a go-fast boat full of cocaine bales destined for the United States.

On May 25, 2017, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutters Harriet Lane and Joseph Tezanos were set in motion to interdict the go-fast vessel detected by a maritime patrol airplane. Once the drug boat was stopped and boarded by USCG maritime enforcement specialists (MESs), authorities netted bales of cocaine and three maritime arrests.

The drug runners were Dominican nationals planning to offload the powdery scourge ashore in Puerto Rico.

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According to the The Virgin Islands Consortium, the interdiction operation resulted from joint international efforts between several law enforcement agencies bolstering Operation Unified Resolve and Operation Caribbean Guard.

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The huge haul of 1,100 kilograms of cocaine is estimated to be worth a wholesale value of $32.5 million. That is wholly commendable and one of a continual stream of high-seas busts made by our seafaring men and women in blue.

Eye in the sky. In keeping with President Trump’s “secure our borders” initiative, the U.S. Coast Guard has been tirelessly working jointly with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and, in this particular bust, the Puerto Rico Police Department. A USCG press release explained that the maritime patrol airplane, which detected these drug mules, was part of Joint Interagency Task Force-South and spotted the drug smugglers’ go-fast boat “in international waters off the southern coast of Puerto Rico.”

Such international alliances are multi-government mutual-aid agreements in which jurisdiction overlaps, according each participating government agency the legal authority to abate cross-border criminal syndicates.

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Maritime patrol aircraft have long-range capability and surveil international waters from above. The USCG site touts that its “aircraft is capable of serving as an on-scene command and control platform or as a surveillance platform with the means to detect, classify and identify objects and share that information with operational forces.” No one easily embraces a mission to find the proverbial needle in a haystack … but the Coast Guard seems to be sewing it up quite well with its fleet of airborne vessels.

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Tax dollars working the waters. How does a go-fast boat get nabbed at high speed on the high-seas? By way of USCG Cutter Joseph Tezanos, ported in the U.S. territory of San Juan, Puerto Rico, whose 154-foot “fast response” capacity is paid for with U.S. tax dollars.

The sister ship involved in this massive drug seizure, USCG Cutter Harriet Lane, is a 270-foot varied-use vessel engineered for medium endurance and is ported at Portsmouth, Virginia.

Summing up this successful mission, USCG Captain Robert Warren said, “As in many other cases, the success of this interdiction is due to strong interagency cooperation between federal and regional law enforcement authorities in the Caribbean. We remain vigilant and stand ready to protect our citizens from illegal smuggling activities on the high seas.” Although not amigos of the United States, the three Dominican drug mules will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney General’s office in the District of Puerto Rico.

The conditions may not be ideal, but the Coast Guard crime-fighters take up the battle anyway.

Uncovered by mainstream media, the Department of Homeland Security  has invested heavily in ensuring that President Trump’s “secure our borders” mantra comes to fruition by decommissioning and launching replacement vessels for its aging fleet of USCG cutters. A growing cadre of fast-response cutters has been floated and assigned, or are being constructed by Shipbuilding 101 architects and engineers.

Securing our borders. In typical U.S. Coast Guard fashion, they put on the spotlight then stoplight, severing the steady supply of junk from reaching our  shores. It certainly takes diligence to find, stop and seize contraband purveyors, and it is difficult making a dent in the market on this water-covered globe we call home. “Securing our borders” is a phrase of three words that may be taken for granted by some, but not by the USCG and counterpart entities.

When I ponder the category “Unsung Heroes,” I readily conjure imagery of maritime enforcement specialists navigating our earthly playing field, the turbulence of which is not just waterborne but from a notoriously hostile criminal enterprise desperate to ensure their product reaches the noses of Americans. The conditions may not be ideal, but the Coast Guard crime-fighters take up the battle anyway. After all, they swore an oath to defend our beloved nation, and this is just the latest report of their litany of valiant efforts.

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And with this major haul of drug cartel powder processed and disposed of by Drug Enforcement Administration agents, the USCG fleet is already back at sea to see to it that our national-security initiatives are fulfilled.

Stephen Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and field training officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a senior OpsLens contributor, a researcher, and a writer. This OpsLens article is used with permission.

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meet the author

Stephen Owsinski is a LifeZette contributing editor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is also a columnist for the National Police Association.

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