SEATTLE — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Active (WMEC 618) is scheduled to return to Port Angeles Tuesday following a 47-day counter-narcotic patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, during which they seized over 2,000 pounds of cocaine worth approximately $37 million from suspected drug smugglers.
The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in these counter-drug operations.
«This patrol, and this interdiction in particular, highlights the resilience and professionalism of Active’s crew,» said Cmdr. James O’Mara, commanding officer of Active. «We cancelled a port visit, stretched logistics, and diverted 500 miles to get on target and do our job. No captain could ask or expect more from a crew, especially given all the adversity overcome during this patrol. Though I know if more were required, this crew would rally and answer the call, the way they always do.»
On May 12, the crew detained three suspected drug smugglers from a go-fast vessel approximately 200 nautical miles off the coast of El Salvador. One detainee exhibited mild illness symptoms, including fever and sore throat and was treated by the onboard health services technician. As a precaution, all three detainees were treated as potentially COVID-19 positive. The detainees remained outside on the weather decks of the cutter, protected under an awning, and all detainees wore surgical masks.
All Active crew who interacted with the detainees employed proper personal protective equipment (PPE) including N95 masks, nitrile gloves, long sleeves, and goggles. Crewmembers removed their boots and coveralls and disposed of PPE prior to entering the inside of the ship to prevent any contamination within. Throughout the duration of the detainees’ custodial period onboard, the cutter maintained an internal sanitation routine in addition to COVID-19 spacing protocols and staggered meal times.
On May 20, the detainees were transferred to Department of Justice custody in San Diego and were tested and confirmed positive for COVID-19. The detainees were admitted to a local hospital for care and monitoring and remain in custody. Once the detainees were transferred, all of the cutter’s weather decks were disinfected and sanitized. The crew of the Active were all tested for COVID-19, and all tests were negative. All crew members remain asymptomatic.
«Special thanks to the U.S. Navy’s mobile medical unit from Balboa that tested my crew yesterday morning in San Diego, and returned our results before dinner time,» said O’Mara. «That quick turnaround was a profound statement of interagency support, and directly informed our operational planning. Onboard Active we are not letting our guard down – we’ll keep spacing and sanitizing on our voyage home to reunite with our families.»
The Active crew have continued to wear cloth masks and practice strict sanitation and safety measures on their voyage home. All Active crewmembers will continue to self-monitor upon return to Port Angeles, and the Coast Guard will continue to work closely with the Clallam County Department of Health.
«I commend Cmdr. O’Mara and the crew of the Active for their successful patrol under unprecedented circumstances,» said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area command. «Their professionalism and diligence allowed them to successfully execute their mission while remaining safe and heathy. The Coast Guard is committed to maintaining operational readiness and will continue to perform critical missions that protect our national interests, promote economic prosperity, and ensure public safety.»