Written by Lt. Andrew Williams.
“Disabling fire authorized,” crackles over the Coast Guard precision marksman’s headset.
Descending out of the night aboard a Navy H-60 Seahawk helicopter, he can see the large bales of cocaine, filling the boat as he sights-in on the go-fast’s engines. He fires, two rounds going straight through the boat’s outboard motors.
A Navy frigate, flying a Coast Guard ensign on its mast to show law enforcement authority, is arriving on scene. Under the authority of Joint Interagency Task Force – South and the tactical command of the 11th Coast Guard District, the frigate deploys a boat with a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment, or LEDET, aboard to detain the smugglers and seize the drugs.
In 2011, Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team LEDETs deployed aboard U.S. and allied naval vessels conducted 30 counter-drug boardings just like the one described above and seized more than 11 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated street value of more than $268 million.
The LEDETs also investigated more than 150 targets of interest and assembled case packages during each interdiction, resulting in 36 narcotics traffickers being sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
In recognition of this success, Rene Hanna, senior policy advisor of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, presented the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team the United States Interdiction Coordinator Award for their outstanding operational achievements.
“Receiving the USIC award is a great honor and a testament to the hard work and dedication of our law enforcement detachments and support staff,” said Cmdr. Jon Totte, commanding officer of the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team.
Each year, the USIC award is presented to the unit achieving the most significant counter-drug results. The units must also show the most innovation, tactics and aggressiveness.
PACTACLET is on pace to beat last year’s record as this year they’ve already stopped more than 11 tons of cocaine and four tons of marijuana from reaching America’s shores.
No single agency or nation is capable of defeating transnational organized crime alone. Coast Guard units like the tactical law enforcement team develop outstanding interoperability with agencies such as Joint Interagency Task Force – South. JIATF South conducts interagency and international detection and monitoring operations and facilitates the interdiction of illicit trafficking bringing agency capabilities from Customs and Border Protection, Drug Enforcement Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Defense, the FBI and other partners together to jointly stem the flow of narcotics into the U.S. The Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team also represents the Coast Guard internationally by deploying with the British, Canadian and Dutch navies as these partner countries also assist with narcotics interdiction.
Since its commissioning in 1982, the unit’s primary responsibility has been the counter-drug mission, now labeled as counter-transnational organized crime operations. They also conduct a broad range of law enforcement missions, including counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and port security operations in Port-au-Prince following the 2010 Haitian earthquake.