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Mission Commander (Ret) for the first HITRON Patrick Merrigan

Mission Commander (Ret) for the first HITRON Patrick Merrigan
Archive image: The crew of a small boat from Coast Guard Cutter Spencer conducting maneuvers with a Coast Guard HITRON helicopter off the coast of Honduras.
Coast Guard Cutter Spencer departed Portsmouth, Feb. 12, 2022 and headed south, making a stop in Mayport, Florida to bring aboard a Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) crew.
From Mayport, the medium endurance cutter steamed to Honduran territorial seas and conducted tactical demonstrations with members of the Honduran Naval Special Forces.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Katharine Ingham.
Video by Cmdr. Ace Castle
Interview and edition by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Stanton 

In this documentary series the Coast Guard spoke with the Cmdr. (Ret) Patrick Merrigan who was the Mission Commander for the first HITRON (Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron).

Merrigan retired as a USCG Commander with 30 years of military service. He was not only one of the original ten members (HITRON 10) to stand up Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON), but was also the Mission Commander for the first HITRON bust. Additionally, seven of his 30 years of service were as a Marine, where he was a helicopter assault pilot during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada.

Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron operations started as an experiment in 1998 to halt the flow of illegal drugs into the United States Drug trafficking organizations primarily used “go-fast” boats, high-speed smuggling vessels capable of traveling over twice the speed of Coast Guard Cutters (USCGC). The Coast Guard needed a way to counter the threat.

In this documentary series, the Coast Guard spoke with Patrick Merrigan, Cmdr. USCG (Ret) who was the Mission Commander for the first HITRON (Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron).
U.S. Coast Guard video by Cmdr. Ace Castle. Interview and edition by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Stanton.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville.
U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area.
U.S. Coast Guard Southeast.
Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Department of Homeland Security.

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 to answer the call.

In reference to aircraft, the HITRON began operating with rented helicopters MH-90 Enforcer, USCG designation for the MD900 Explorer which were later replaced by the type MD902 (made by MD Helicopters). The MH-90s gave way to Italian aircraft MH-68A Mako, or Stingray, (Agusta A109 Power). Currently the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron aircrews fly eight Airbus Helicopters MH-65 Dolphin.

HITRON helicopters 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 HITRON’s history.

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The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

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