by Lt. j.g. Michael Barker (September 18, 2013) – If you speak with Coast Guardsmen from the 1st Coast Guard District – stretching from the Canadian border in Maine to northern New Jersey – about the missions they routinely perform, you will likely get a standard answer from just about every member: search and rescue, recreational boating safety, aids to navigation, ports waterways and coastal security, living marine resource enforcement and ice breaking. But if you ask the crew underway aboard Coast Guard Cutter Dependable last week, they would answer counter drug operations.
That’s right, add counter drug operations aimed at stopping the illegal flow of narcotics through the maritime environment to the list of missions executed in the 1st Coast Guard District.
Dependable’s crew had just finished a search and rescue case earlier in the week, ready to shift their focus back to the efforts of living marine resource enforcement. But true to any multi-mission crew, they remained on high alert and soon encountered a 49-foot sailboat riding low in the water. The boat only had two people aboard, making the fact that it was riding low in the water suspicious to the crew.
“We are a multi-mission ship with the equipment and training that enables us to execute a wide array of Coast Guard missions every day,” said Cmdr. Paul Gregg, Dependable’s commanding officer. “But what really drives our diverse capabilities is an exceptionally adept and professional crew.”
A boarding team was deployed from Dependable to board the sailboat and during the course of the boarding the team discovered the reason the boat was riding low in the water – the sailboat’s bow was stuffed full of what appeared to be bales of drugs. The team tested the packages and the tests came back positive for cocaine.
Dependable’s crew – with the contraband, suspects and sailboat in tow – headed for Boston to unload the contraband and transfer custody of the two suspects and cocaine to the U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and Customs and Border Protection officials.
Once moored, the contraband was off loaded and weighed. The final count of the drugs came in at 636 kilograms, worth more than $20 million; the largest drug seizure in the 1st Coast Guard District’s history.
“A case like this is about delivering the results Americans are looking for from government agencies,” said Lt. Joe Klinker, the 1st Coast Guard District public affairs officer. “This was a Coast Guard ship, alongside federal law enforcement partners, coordinating with Canadian counterparts. A lot of planning and a lot of teamwork led to big results.”
Dependable’s crew epitomized the Coast Guard’s call to action by protecting those on the water by performing their rescue of a commercial fishing vessel; protecting the nation from threats delivered by the sea when they interdicted contraband; and protecting the sea itself by enforcing fishing regulations through the duration of their patrol.
While the drug seizure was a historical success for Dependable’s crew, it more importantly highlighted the need of all Coast Guard members to be Always Ready, Semper Paratus, for any and every mission the Coast Guard is charged with.