USS Gary Boards Two Suspected Drug Smuggling Vessels, Sinks One
The U.S. 4th Fleet guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) with embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) boarded and searched two suspicious vessels, sinking one, of being involved in illicit cargo trafficking Nov. 7 as part of Operation Martillo.
While on routine patrol in the Eastern Pacific in support of Operation Martillo, Gary's embarked SH-60B Seahawk Helicopter Squadron, HSL 49 Detachment 3, was able to locate a suspicious speedboat which it had been pursuing for more than 24 hours. When the speedboat recognized it was being detected it attempted to evade the helicopter. Warning shots were authorized, which brought the vessel to an immediate halt.
Again, the speedboat attempted to escape and the ship was instructed to pursue it, rather than a fishing vessel operating close by suspected of providing logistical support. Gary deployed its LEDET to conduct a boarding on the vessel.
"The speedboat was like nothing I had ever seen with four 350 horsepower engines and after seven months of operational time in 4th Fleet, it would seem that the vessel was extremely suspicious," said Lt. j.g. Bryan Holst, gunnery officer.
With the detained vessel secured, Gary was free to return to the fishing vessel to conduct another boarding and search.
Although the fishing vessel was not found to contain any illicit cargo, the frigate's and its attached Coast Guard LEDET were convinced they prevented the fishing vessel from completing its intended support mission to the unregistered speedboat.
"It was good to see the crew work together to complete the mission," said Cmdr. James Brown, commanding officer, USS Gary.
The ship was granted permission by the 11th Coast Guard District to sink the speedboat since it was damaged beyond repair and not safe to operate at sea.
Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is managed by Joint Interagency Task Force, South headquartered in Key West, Fla. U.S. maritime law enforcement and interdiction operations in the Pacific Ocean are under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District in Alameda, Calif.
Gary is homeported in San Diego, and is currently deployed to Central and South America and the Caribbean in support of Operation Martillo and U.S. 4th Fleet's mission, Southern Seas 2012.
Operation Martillo (Spanish for "hammer") is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation is being led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, a component of U.S. Southern Command.
Operation Martillo is part of the U.S. government's coordinated regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transitional organized crime and the U.S. Central America Security Initiative.
Fourteen countries are participating: Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Article by Ensign Ian McConnaughey, USS Gary Public Affairs