Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory J. Mendenhall, 11th Coast Guard District public affairs.
The waters surrounding Catalina Island are mostly calm and uneventful late at night. You may see only the occasional breaching of a dolphin or the flapping wings of a passing sea gull. But every once in a while, these waters become home to a criminal element. Such was the case recently, when two Coast Guard units stopped nearly 2,000 pounds of marijuana from reaching the shores of Southern California.
Lookouts on the Halibut spotted two contacts, using night vision binoculars, and moved in for further investigation. Neither vessel had any navigation lights illuminated, creating a level of suspicion as to why two boats would be operating in close proximity to one another, near a sparsely populated island around midnight, with no lights on.
“We got right up on them,” said Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne, Halibut’s executive petty officer and boarding officer. “We started talking from the ship, trying to find out what their story was and it wasn’t really adding up. That’s when we launched the small boat and the boarding team.”
While Halibut’s boarding team focused on the smaller boat, the station’s crew was directed to target the other recreational boat.
Once aboard the second vessel, the station’s boarding team found bales of marijuana stashed away in the forward compartment and detained the four individuals aboard. After it was discovered that both boats were involved in smuggling operations, Halibut’s boarding team detained those aboard the first vessel. In total, eight people and 2,000 pounds of drugs were taken into custody.
While these types of situations are thoroughly covered in training, for Petty Officer 2nd Class Jordan Lado, a maritime enforcement specialist and boarding officer present during the apprehension, nothing comes close to the real thing.
“It’s something you always harp on during training, to always be ready in circumstances like this,” said Lado. “However, training and experience are two completely different animals. Experience is the only thing that’s going to make you fully ready for something like this, while training obviously plays a big part.”
It’s this invaluable blend of experience and training that enables Coast Guard units all over the country to fulfill their many missions with precision, day in and day out.
Keeping illegal drugs from reaching our shores is a heavy and important responsibility. Fortunately, in Southern California, like many areas of the United States, the Coast Guard doesn’t have to bear this burden alone.
This latest drug interdiction is the result of extensive coordination between the Coast Guard, local, state and federal agencies who operate in this area as members of the Central California Maritime Agency Coordination Group.
This alliance allows the various agencies to coordinate intelligence, planning, resources and operations to seamlessly execute the law enforcement missions that each agency shares.
The Coast Guard, along with these partner agencies, has created a law enforcement net that is becoming ever more difficult to penetrate, as demonstrated by this case and the marijuana that will never see the streets.