Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter Shinn.
Technology has changed since 1790, but Coast Guard missions have remained true. Today, in the South Atlantic, maintaining international law is a collaborative effort involving a maritime presence from 15 countries.
These 15 countries contribute to the multinational detection, monitoring and interdiction operation working together to deny transnational criminal organizations the ability to exploit transshipment routes for the movement of narcotics, precursor chemicals, bulk cash and weapons along Central American shipping routes.
The joint law enforcement and interdiction effort with other countries is lead by the Department of Defense in efforts to detect and monitor aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs toward the United States.
U.S. military personnel are involved in supporting an interdiction during maritime operations in international waters where U.S. Navy ships and helicopters patrol and intercept suspected traffickers. The actual interdictions are led and conducted by embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments or partner nation drug law enforcement agencies.
In August a team from Tactical Law Enforcement Team South’s Law Enforcement Detachment 406 demonstrated the joint international law enforcement effort by serving aboard the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Wave Knight. The mission was to operate as the team’s small boat crew in support of LEDET 406 counter narcotics operation. Crewmembers from Maritime Safety and Security Team Boston were deployed to augment the LEDET team by performing crewmen and coxswain duties.
The LEDET 406’s counter narcotics operation was in conjunction with Operation Martillo, a coordinated interagency regional security strategy in support of the White House Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative.
On day 12 of the patrol the LEDET crewmembers intercepted a Jamaican registered fishing vessel Miss Tiffany suspected of illicit activity prompting the crew to launch their small boat quickly because the fishing vessel was spotted dumping contraband.
“When we came within 10 yards of the bales you could tell what the contraband was by the smell,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael E. Vadala, a Boston-based crewmember from Maritime Safety and Security Team 91110 who deployed with LEDET 406. “The boarding of the vessel conducted by LEDET 406 resulted in taking into custody seven detainees consisting of five Jamaican and two Guyanese citizens and 2,812 pounds of marijuana. Having never been part of a drug bust in my career I personally thought it was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when we transferred the detainees over to the authorities in Jamaica.”
The smugglers were found guilty at trial with two counts of violating the U.S. Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act in November.
The LEDET’s work is an example of Coast Guard cutters, boats and aircraft on patrol in every coastal community, safeguarding the nation from threats from the sea by extending the rule of law to the maritime environment and deterring security threats from the sea.
Not only does working with other countries unify maritime enforcement but also a sense of camaraderie between 15 countries.
“It was a great experience working together with the RFA. I greatly appreciated the chance to be aboard and I would volunteer to do it again in a heartbeat,” said Petty Officer Second Class Salvatore Scalice, also a member of Maritime Safety and Security Team 91110. “We were well educated in their culture as well as their language. The memories and experiences of this trip will be forever remembered.”
The international effort has yielded results demonstrating what teamwork can do.
In 2012 international and cooperative interagency efforts coordinated through JIATF South resulted in the disruption of 152 metric tons of cocaine and 21 metric tons of marijuana with a wholesale value of about $3 billion, before it could reach destinations in the United States.
The collaborative effort also enabled the interdiction of $7 million in bulk cash destined for traffickers in Central and South America. More than 67 percent of interdictions were supported by partner nations.
By working within Operation Martillo the Coast Guard’s partnership provides international maritime law enforcement capabilities enabling greater safety, security and economic success. Where Coast Guard crews patrol, the rule of international law follows.