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Coast Guard HITRON history series: Lt. Comander Vincent Van Ness

Coast Guard HITRON history series: Lt. Comander Vincent Van Ness, MH-68 Shark
Archive image: JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Mar. 27, 2007) – A Coast Guard MH-68 Shark (Mako) from Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron in Jacksonville maneuvers over a Coast Guard tactical training boat. After the pilots get the helicopter in to position, a gunner aboard the helicopter will simulate shooting out the engines of the boat. The tactical training boat is designed to mirror a high-speed drug smuggling boat used in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea known as a go-fast. Aircrews from HITRON deploy aboard Coast Guard cutters to known drug transit zones through out the Pacific and the Caribbean stopping smugglers. The armed helicopter interdiction unit has stopped 114 go-fasts since 1998 preventing more than $8 billion worth of illegal narcotics from hitting U.S. streets.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA1 Donnie Brzuska.

In this HITRON Squadron history documentary series, the Coast Guard spoke with Vincent Van Ness, a Lieutenant junior grade at the time Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) was stood up.

Van Ness is a HITRON-10 member and recognized for his role in evaluating night vision goggles (NVG) and applying them to the Unit’s proof of concept and mission. He later retired as a Lieutenant Commander.

HITRON operations started as an experiment in 1998 to halt the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. Drug trafficking organizations primarily used «go-fast» boats, high-speed smuggling vessels capable of traveling over twice the speed of Coast Guard Cutters. The Coast Guard needed a way to counter the threat.

Coast Guard HITRON history series: Lt. Comander Vincent Van Ness, MH-68 Mako
Archive image: the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk participates in routine training along the Atlantic coastline with HITRON-10’s MH-68 Shark helicopter.
During the test and evaluation stage of this program, HITRON-10 intercepted and stopped every go-fast encountered.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Dana Warr.

In late 1998, six Coast Guard pilots and four enlisted aircrew members developed tactics and procedures to utilize armed helicopters operating aboard Coast Guard Cutters (USCGC) to answer the call.

The HITRON helicopters aircrews operate in known smuggling vectors and rely on expertly trained aircrews and precision marksmen to disable go-fast drug smuggling vessels in the event suspects refuse to comply with verbal and visual warnings for law enforcement boardings under international maritime law. This series focuses on the founding members, pioneers, and stakeholders who have played an essential part in the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron history.

In this serie documentary the Coast Guard speek with Vincent Van Ness, a Lt. junior grade at the time Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) was stood up.
Van Ness is a HITRON-10 member and retired as a Lt. commander.
U.S. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Stanton.

HITRON started with two MD 900 Explorer helicopters, which were later replaced by two more (more modern) MD 902, designated as MH-90 Enforcer by the U.S. Coast Guard. HITRON’s helicopter fleet subsequently quadrupled to eight MH-68A Mako (Agusta A109E Power). All of them were operated by the Unit under rental contract.

Today, the entire current fleet of MH-65 Dolphin helicopters is owned by the USCG and began to fly with the HITRON in 2008 with the introduction of the MH-65C.

-USCG-

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