Written by Lt. Benjamin Gross
Coast Guard service members from Port Security Unit 309 and Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant often conduct missions very different from each other. Port Security Units carry out defense and security operations while cutters like the Vigilant typically carry out drug interdiction, search and rescue or migrant interdiction cases.
Despite having different missions, these units often operate jointly with other Coast Guard assets and with international partners. In early June, members from both units collaborated to interdict illegal drugs approximately one mile from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay’s shoreline.
PSU 309, based out of Port Clinton, Ohio, is currently midway through the unit’s nine-month deployment at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay where service members are providing around-the-clock anti-terrorism force protection and security along the coastline and the naval station’s defensive sea area, which extends three miles from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay’s shoreline.
The Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant, homeported in Port Canaveral, Florida, was at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay for a scheduled port call to resupply the ship between patrols in the region.
What happened next was out of the ordinary for Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. PSU 309 service members standing watch from a shoreline observation post spotted a small boat crossing from Cuban waters into the naval station’s defensive sea area. The boat was immediately reported by the members in the observation post to a PSU 309 boat crew who was patrolling the waterway. The boat crew attempted to intercept the small boat, but as they closed the distance, the operators of the suspicious small boat began jettisoning packages and returned to Cuban waters.
PSU 309’s boat crew and Vigilant crew members coordinated and executed a search pattern and located a total of 19 packages and four containers floating in the water. PSU 309’s boat crew recovered the packages and transferred them to the Vigilant where field testing positively identified marijuana within the packages.
The 19 packages contained a total of 611 pounds of marijuana. Further coordination between PSU 309, Vigilant, Coast Guard’s 7th District and The Cuban Border Guard resulted in the interdiction of the small boat in Cuban waters by the Cuban Border Guard.
“I’m really proud of how our crews quickly recognized and responded to the potential threat as the suspicious boat entered into restricted waters,” said Capt. Matthew Wadleigh, PSU 309’s commanding officer. “This case is an example of the valuable service our deployed PSU members provide both at home and abroad, including here, safeguarding and protecting those who serve at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. It was rewarding to see it play out with all the commands in this joint environment.”
PSU 309 is one of eight Port Security Units that are part of Pacific Area’s Deployable Specialized Forces. Port Security Units are staffed by reservists whose primary mission is defense readiness, including expeditionary anti-terrorism force protection security and defense in support of Department of Defense combatant commanders worldwide.