Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, the service’s second national security cutter, just returned from its inaugural deployment. And what a successful deployment it was.
Throughout the three-month patrol in the Pacific Ocean, the cutter and crew demonstrated the national security cutter’s ability to operate in some of the most dynamic environments for extended periods of time. While the entire deployment included many accomplishments, one 48-hour period exemplified the cutter’s capabilities when they interdicted two separate drug-smuggling vessels.
The first seizure came when the ship’s helicopter spotted a fishing vessel with three people aboard. Suspiciously, the vessel had numerous makeshift fuel tanks and no fish or fishing gear aboard. The Waesche crew dispatched its boat and intercepted the 20-foot fishing vessel some 350 miles south of Guatemala, where they found cocaine hidden aboard the vessel.
Just 48 hours later, Waesche’s helicopter crew spotted a fishing vessel about 300 miles southeast of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. As the helicopter soared overhead, the vessel’s crew began throwing bales of cocaine overboard.
The helicopter directed Waesche’s response boat to the vessel and the Coast Guardsmen recovered five suspects and 13 bales of cocaine, totaling 500 kilograms.
“It’s an honor returning home after our inaugural and successful counternarcotics patrol,” said Capt. Kelly Hatfield, Waesche’s commanding officer. “We prevented $25 million worth of illegal narcotics from reaching U.S. shores. The capability of this ship coupled with the best crew I have ever served with exceeds my expectations on a daily basis. With over 10 years of sea time, I have never experienced a ship that could do so much, so efficiently and so reliably.”
The 418-foot Waesche was commissioned in May 2010 and is the second of eight planned national security cutters. The new national security cutters, set to replace high endurance cutters, are on the front lines of our nation’s defense.
Rear Adm. Christopher Colvin, Coast Guard Pacific Area deputy commander, praised Wasche’s performance in keeping threats from the U.S. and conveyed the importance of counter-drug patrols in the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean – main arteries for the transportation of cocaine.
“These operations also help to remove the cocaine and money that fuels the organized crime and violence that threaten regional security and stability,” said Colvin.
Every load of contraband stopped at sea represents lives saved here in the U.S. While Waesche is one of the newest cutters in the Coast Guard’s fleet, the ship’s crew is upholding the service’s centuries-old tradition of protecting Americans and stopping contraband from reaching our shores. With Waesche’s crew on patrol, they proved America is better positioned to protect our nation’s shores, ports and waterways.