USS Nicholas Brings Home 4 Tons of Drugs from Operation Martillo
Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) delivered more than four tons of cocaine and marijuana to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., seized from drug interdictions conducted in support of Operation Martillo, July 17.
Crew members offloaded approximately 3,408 kilograms (7,500 pounds) of cocaine, and 109 kilograms (239 pounds) of marijuana, with an estimated wholesale value of more than $93 million. The amount of cocaine seized was enough for 7.2 million doses, each dose approximately the same size as a sugar packet.
USS Nicholas is returning to port after a 175-day deployment supporting counter illicit trafficking operations aimed at disrupting transnational organized crime and keeping drugs off the streets.
"With the help of some partners in the region we accomplished what we set out to do; disrupt the drug trade," said Cmdr. Stephen Fuller, USS Nicholas commanding officer. "Interdictions are challenging, but with the help of other naval units, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the partner nation navies, we executed a successful deployment."
During the deployment, Nicholas with embarked U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) conducted a combination of six disruptions and interdictions while in the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters of South and Central America.
Also during the deployment, Nicholas transited the Panama Canal twice, conducted passing exercises and an officer exchange with the Colombian Navy, certified 22 pilots through Helicopter Anti Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42 Detachment 9, four underway replenishments with a Chilean oiler, celebrated the anniversary of the War of 1812, and a "Crossing the Line" ceremony when the ship crossed the equator.
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, U.S. military and patrol aircraft from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, along with the support of allied and partner nation (PN) forces assisted with patrolling coastal regions from Colombia to Mexico to detect and monitor illicit traffic in order to cue and support PNs and U.S. interagency interdiction efforts.
Patrol airplanes from Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 77 (VAW-77), Patrol Squadron Eight (VP-8) operating from El Salvador and U.S. Customs and Border Protection long range patrol aircraft operating from Jacksonville, Fla. And Corpus Christi, Tex., use sophisticated sensors to detect suspicious vessels and coordinate interdictions by the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and partner nations patrolling the region.
More than 80 percent of the narcotics entering Central America and largely transiting through Mexico on their way to U.S. markets enter via maritime littoral routes, with the main conveyance being "go-fast" boats. By teaming up with regional partner nations and allied forces to scrutinize the littorals, transnational organized crime networks will be denied those routes.
LEDETs belong to Tactical Law Enforcement Team South or Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team and are an armed deployable specialized force under the USCG's Deployable Operations Group. They were created to support narcotics interdiction operations aboard U.S. Navy and allied ships and are capable of supporting DOD national defense operations. LEDETs provide specialized law enforcement capability and maritime security capabilities to enforce U.S. laws across a full spectrum of maritime response situations, maritime security augmentation and maritime interdiction anti-piracy operations.
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. This joint service, interagency, and multinational operation is being led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, the agency charged with detection, monitoring, and supporting the interdiction of illicit trafficking in a 42 million square mile area under the direction of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM).
Operation Martillo is a component of the U.S. government's coordinated interagency regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transnational organized crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports USSOUTHCOM joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
Article by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs