Colombian assistance key to drug interdiction & regional stability

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Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp meets members of the National Police of Colombia. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp meets members of the National Police of Colombia. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

The relationships between the United States and countries in Central and South America are critical to the Coast Guard’s continuing efforts to intercept the flow of drugs in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean maritime transit zones that lead to the U.S. border. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp visited Colombia recently to continue engagement with Colombian naval, coast guard and National Police of Colombia leadership and discuss their counter-drug initiatives.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp tours a self-propelled, semi-submersible vessel, capable of transporting upwards of 10 tons of drugs, seized by Colombian authorities in 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp tours a self-propelled, semi-submersible vessel, capable of transporting upwards of 10 tons of drugs, seized by Colombian authorities in 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“The Coast Guard takes the offensive in the transit zone to protect the United States from the onslaught of drugs and associated transnational organized crime that brings violence, decay and misery to many communities,” said Papp. “Leveraging the tools and resources of key international allies like Colombia helps us maintain this aggressive stance against those who threaten the United States.”

Broad-based international collaboration against transnational organized crime, a focus of recent U.S. efforts, is vital to not only keeping drugs off U.S. streets but also to maintaining stability in our regional neighborhood with which we share close personal ties and important trade. As illegal drugs make their way from the source countries of South America into the transit zone at sea, and into the nations of Central America and Mexico, they bring corruption, extreme violence and other corrosive effects as they move north. International and domestic efforts to combat drug smuggling secure regional stability, allow for legitimate businesses that create prosperity and remove conditions that cause illegal migration.

Agreements with Colombia have assisted the Coast Guard in law enforcement operations through information sharing and permission to conduct boardings on Colombian-flagged vessels.

For example, in February, the USS McClusky, a U.S. Navy frigate, identified a suspicious vessel while patrolling on the high seas north of Colombia. When McClusky approached the suspicious vessel, the master claimed Colombian registry for the vessel. A call to our Colombian partners quickly confirmed the claim was false. As a result, a Coast Guard law enforcement team from McClusky boarded the stateless vessel and discovered 450 kilograms of cocaine. The case has since been turned over to authorities for prosecution.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp meets with the commandant of the Colombian navy, Roberto Garcia Marquez, during a visit to Colombia's defense headquarters in Bogota, Colombia. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp meets with the commandant of the Colombian navy, Roberto Garcia Marquez, during a visit to Colombia's defense headquarters in Bogota, Colombia. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Cooperation with Colombia also extends to battling the latest smuggling threat to carry drugs in the region, self-propelled, semi-submersible vessels, also called drug subs. These vessels, which proliferated in the Eastern Pacific, are now used in the Caribbean Sea. They, along with fully submersible versions, are capable of transporting upwards of 10 tons of drugs or other dangerous contraband while attempting to avoid detection. Recently the United States, Colombia and Ecuador have successfully seized or disrupted these vessels from making their deliveries.

Partnering to enhance stability and security goes beyond counter narcotics operations. The Coast Guard also works with Colombia on port security and provides training for Colombian military personnel. In addition, Colombia operates multiple former Coast Guard cutters, including four 82-foot patrol boats, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter and a 180-foot buoy tender. The ships were transferred to Colombia through the Defense Department’s Excess Defense Articles program.

“Working with our international partners is integral to our success in counter-drug and other operations,” said Papp. “Colombia is a key ally in the region and we rely on the strength of our partnership to complete the mission.”

The Colombia navy ship Valle del Cauca, previously commissioned as Coast Guard Cutter Durable. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.
The Colombia navy ship Valle del Cauca, previously commissioned as Coast Guard Cutter Durable. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

15 comments on “Colombian assistance key to drug interdiction & regional stability”

  1.   I served on the Dallas as a young Ensign as my first assignment out of the Academy.  She was not an old ship then (1977-79).  Seeing her decommissioned reminds me of discussions my father had with his old shipmates when I was a young-un (he retired in 1972 as an ENC (predecessor to MK’s) about the cutters they served on being decommissioned.  What goes around, comes around.
      Farewell Dallas, we knew you well!
    Mark “Banjo” Byrum  

  2. Our son, Rob, served on the Dallas for a 3 yr. stint, and it has help mold him into the military person he is today!  He was even called the “Mayor” for knowing what was going on aboard the ship.  Too funny for his dad and me!  I was on it to visit 2 times, and even climbed the ladder into the belly of the ship, too!

  3. My late Grandfather Chief Warrant Officer 3rd was a 1st Lieutenant on the Dallas’ original crew in 1967. He always spoke highly of her, and would be proud to know that she will live on. It is fitting that she should go to the Phillipenes as he fought there with Halseys 3rd Fleet in WWII. Hats off to the Dallas and her crews.
    J.P. Boudreau
    Gloucester, Ma.

  4. With Capt. Bob Bloxom as skipper and George Ireland as Engineer, I ran Main Prop. (Engineroom) from 74-77. We made three trips to “Gitmo” with flying colors as the first 378 to go through under way training with the Navy. We actually helped them set up the training for these gas turbine ships for the follow on ones to go through. One of my most memorable moments aboard was watching the PSI tech rep. John Crankshaw come aboard and try to repair the starboard gas turbine clutch that his company built. I couldn’t believe that before I came aboard that they had to stop the shaft and actually pry the clutch out of gear with a crowbar through the inspection cover. This had gone on for seven years since she was built. After coming aboard I repaired the thing on my first duty weekend, but I would never tell how I did it until I later met Mr. Crankshaw at the CG yard in Baltimore where I was a Ships Superintendant and told him what I had done to repair his clutch. I did at that time ask him in a joking way if he would mind reimbursing the CG for all the Tech Rep trips he charged. I managed with Chief Bob Simpson to pull off a couple of other repairs that became standard procedure for 378’s and they wound up in the Engineers Digest.
    Take a good rest ‘ol girl,  CWO-4 Charles (Uncle Chuck) Kelley, Ret.

    PS: Check out my books “I Dream of Fathom” and “Nomad VI” at Barnes and Noble if you like great mystery thrillers.

  5. What an honor it was to be at the decommissioning of my first duty station. It was a pleasure to serve as a member of the deck force (SA/SN) commissioning her in 1967. How awesome to have Ms. Dallas Pell present. She sponsored the Dallas at the vessels first commissioning and attended the decommissioning and commissioning when the Dallas went into and out of FRAM. Probably the most moving event was when the crew left the ship, plank owners and past crew were asked to join the ship’s company, colors were struck, all departments gave their final reports, and then the vessel went ‘dead’. It was over. Hopefully there will be a seventh CGC Dallas in CG history to come. Personally I want to thank Capt. Munro and the final crew for allowing us to be part of this ceremony.
    Tim Goldsmith
    LCDR, USCG(ret.)

  6. After 45 years of service to the USCG, I wonder just how long the Philippine Navy will be able to maintain her in anything resembling full operational service, especially as a warship that will probably be used for anti-piracy.  Not to knock the Hamilton class cutters, but I think the Philippine Navy might be better off taking on some of the Perry Class frigates the USN is getting rid of.

  7. Paul Conners, you’re right. The cost to maintain and operate a “378” will be more than the Philappine Navy can afford unless we pay for it. I would venture a guess that the Gas Turbines under their operation will see very little if any service since the cost for fuel and replacement of an engine are almost intolerable. I believe operating a vessel of this size and complexity is a little more than they are bargaining for. I believe they should be thinking of something between 150-200 ft. with straight diesel power or at least smaller more efficient gas turbines. You had better believe that when the CG or Navy sees fit to decommission a vessel it has reached the point of not being efficiently sound to keep it running. I hate to see the “Big D” go into retirement from our service and I do wish the “P” navy fair winds and good sailing with her.

    CWO-4, Ret. Charles (Uncle Chuck) Kelley

    1.  I was on the Dallas in ’79, too.  Too many hours in CIC looking at a radar screen.  Bob, is that you?

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