HITRON is a deploying helicopter squadron based in Jacksonville, Florida, specializing in Airborne Use of Force for counter-narcotic operations. HITRON is the nation’s first, and most successful airborne law enforcement unit trained and authorized to employ AUF. With their aeronautical skill, Airborne Use of Force tactics and professionalism, HITRON aircrews have exemplified the Coast Guard’s core values of “honor, respect and devotion to duty.”
Each and every day, the Coast Guard combats the illicit drug trade in a six-million square mile area, including the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Pacific. Cocaine seizures prevent drugs from reaching America’s streets, while delivering a blow to the wallet and influence of transnational organized crime groups. Without the Coast Guard and its partners, hundreds of millions of dollars would flow past U.S. borders and fuel these crime-terror-insurgency organizations.
The Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) marked its 500th drug interdiction when a deployed crew stopped a drug-laden go-fast vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2017.
The Coast Guard’s ability to complete missions across the globe is contingent upon capable platforms and, most importantly, Coast Guard members with the proper skills, knowledge, and experience. Prior to deployments, Coast Guard cutters and aircraft crews hone their proficiency through rigorous training programs and practice. Providing the most realistic and high fidelity training environment to practice shipboard helicopter operations, Coast Guard Cutter Venturous led a Deck Qualification Landing (DLQ) exercise, also known as a DLQ Roundup, off the coast of Miami.
Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s crew was the 2016 recipient of the Coast Guard Foundation’s National Award for Heroism. From May 2015 to April 2016, the Bertholf crew, its Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron and Cryptological Group detachments completed two deployments to the Eastern Pacific totaling 213 days away from homeport. In all, the Bertholf crew detained 58 suspected narco-traffickers and prevented over 50,700 pounds of narcotics – with a street value of over $806 million – from reaching the United States. These efforts were responsible for over 10 percent of the Coast Guard’s total cocaine seizures in 2015.
Cocaine seizures prevent drugs from reaching America’s streets, but they also deliver a blow to the wallet and influence of transnational organized crime groups. Without the Coast Guard and its partners, hundreds of millions of dollars would flow past U.S. borders and fuel these crime-terror-insurgency organizations.
The Coast Guard maintains a constant presence in the Pacific and Caribbean– two key transit areas with known drug trafficking routes. Since the early 1970s, 378-foot cutters like the Mellon have been instrumental in the detection and interdiction of smugglers and narcotics on the high seas.
Coast Guard men and women have debated for centuries about what makes a successful voyage. While the debate continues, one aviator, Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Muro, holds the answer: build relationships, help out where needed and keep a positive outlook.
“Our crew used their unique capabilities and authorities as a military service, law enforcement agency, and member of the U.S. intelligence community to disrupt transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and keep drugs from making it to the U.S.,” said Capt. Edward A. Westfall, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell. “These illegal drug networks are dangerous breeding grounds for all types of trafficking and their immense profits fuel violence and instability.”
Today marks my 100th day as Commandant. Upon becoming Commandant, I shared my guiding principles – Service to Nation, Duty to People and Commitment to Excellence – and asked each of you to infuse these principles into your unique role in the Service. As I’ve traveled with, and worked alongside, the Vice Commandant and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard over the past 100 days, I have seen firsthand the embodiment of these guiding principles.