By Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Cory Booth, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs
PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (USCG LEDET) interdicted almost 2,000 pounds of cocaine being smuggled in a small vessel Nov. 20 while on patrol in international waters off the coast of Central America.
Vandegrift located a small vessel while on patrol in a known drug trafficking area and proceeded to launch one of Vandegrift's SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopters, flown by Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49, to further locate and identify the vessel.
Plotting an intercept course, Vandegrift was able to approach the vessel for further inspection.
The 11th Coast Guard District directed Vandegrift to deploy it's USCG LEDET. Upon boarding, the LEDET searched the vessel and discovered large amounts of fuel and other evidence of illicit drug trafficking. Upon further investigation, 14 bales of contraband were discovered on board and all tested positive for cocaine.
"The tenacity, dedicated team effort, and operational expertise of Vandegrift's crew, embarked HSL-49 Air Detachment, and embarked USCG Law Enforcement Detachment have been exceptional," said Cmdr. Daryl Robbin, executive officer of Vandegrift. "I remain extremely proud and humble to serve with such a remarkable team."
This marks Vandegrift's ninth successful smuggling interdiction in recent months, disrupting the distribution of approximately 13,000 pounds of illicit drugs off the coast of Central America.
Vandegrift is currently deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Martillo, which began in January 2012. Operation Martillo, a joint operation involving the U.S. and 14 European and Western Hemisphere partner nations, targets illicit trafficking routes in the waters off Central America.
Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific is accomplished by Joint Interagency Task Force South headquartered in Key West, Florida. U.S. Maritime law enforcement and the interdiction phase of operations in the region occur under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, California.
U.S. 4th Fleet supports 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.