This is the first post in our new series entitled “Shipmate of the Week” that will highlight contributions of active, reserve, veteran, civilian, auxiliary, and family members of the United States Coast Guard. We look forward to bringing you a new post every Friday sharing the extraordinary actions of the men and women of the Coast Guard.
As night descends upon the coast of Nicaragua, Coast Guard Cutter Thetis watchstanders spot a go-fast on the ship’s radar. A small boat launches and a helicopter from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron is airborne. A three-hour chase ensues – ending with the interdiction of five suspected narco-terrorists. This adrenaline-filled pursuit has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it’s all just another day’s work for boat driver Ryan Anderson.
As a boatswain’s mate aboard Thetis, Petty Officer Second Class Anderson is the cutter’s only qualified tactical pursuit coxswain. That means Anderson is the one to count on when it’s time to chase down drug runners and other threats.
His skills were put to the test last month as Thetis patrolled the Caribbean. Thetis was off the coast of Nicaragua when Anderson and his crew got the call to man their small boat.
With the small boat, helicopter and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft in place, the assets began tracking the vessel. As the tactical pursuit coxswain, Anderson is responsible for getting the boarding team – including gunners, boarding officer and boarding team members – to the suspected drug smugglers. While this duty means driving into the line of fire, he relies on his experience and training.
“My experience driving boats for nine years let me stay calm and keep my crew safe,” said Anderson. “You have to make that call with your experience and judgment as you assess each situation.”
The suspects attempted to outrun the boats and aircraft, but after more than three hours of pursuit, the suspects couldn’t shake Anderson and gave up. As Thetis’ boarding team closed in on the vessel, the smugglers jettisoned their illicit cargo.
The crew boarded the go-fast, securing the suspects and cargo. In addition to the five bales discovered on the vessel, the small boat was able to recover 15 more bales floating nearby.
Later in the patrol, Anderson and the interdiction team were back in action as they intercepted another go-fast approximately 160 miles off the coast of Panama.
Each interdiction case presents different tests and trials, and this one was no different. As Anderson drove his crew to the intercepted boat, it was clear the vessel was taking on water – and fast.
“This was a high pressure situation – the boat was gradually sinking from the second we came on scene,” describes Anderson. “My crewmembers were on board to take control of the vessel as it was taking on water over the stern, so I had to do my best to maintain focus.”
The boarding team’s diligence paid off; 62 bales of cocaine were found aboard the go-fast, and the three people on board were taken into custody. On that day, 3,400 pounds of cocaine were seized, with an estimated street value of $48 million.
“There is a lot of pride that you get to stop the drugs from hitting the streets,” said Anderson. “There’s a lot of training and hard work that goes into this and it’s great to see the results at the end.”
There aren’t many people who can face this challenging fast paced environment day in and day out. But for Anderson, and others defending the nation’s borders, it comes with the territory.
Do you know a Shipmate that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.