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Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane crewmembers return home after interdicting $72 million in drugs

Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane crewmembers return home after interdicting $72 million in drugs
Archive image: The Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane patrols the waters during a 60-day patrol in the Carribean Sea from January to March, 2009.
U.S. Coast Guard photo.

PORTSMOUTH, Va.​ —​ The USCGC Harriet Lane (WMEC 903) returned to its homeport in Portsmouth, after a 56-day patrol in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean and interdicting $72 million in drugs.

Harriet Lane’s patrol began with a week-long intensive training period to evaluate the readiness of the cutter and the crew. After conducting storm avoidance for hurricane Isaias, Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane conducted operational testing of a prototype small unmanned aerial system (sUAS). The sUAS system is designed to extend the surveillance capability of the cutter and the purpose of the test was to verify the compatibility of the system with a medium endurance cutter platform.

Notably, in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, the crew of Harriet Lane interdicted three go-fast vessels, carrying a combined total of approximately 3,882 pounds of suspected cocaine and 2,527 pounds of marijuana, with an estimated street value of $72 million of illegal narcotics. One such interdiction involved airborne use of force executed by a trained Coast Guard crew member aboard a US Navy Sea Hawk helicopter, launched from USS Nitze. Harriet Lane’s boarding team took control of the vessel after it was disabled.

Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane crewmembers return home after interdicting $72 million in drugs. US Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk. USS Nitze.
Archive image (June 13, 2019): an U.S. Navy MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the “Grandmasters” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM), pilots conduct pre-flight checks on the flight deck of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94). Nitze is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Madysson Anne Ritter.

“I am extremely proud of the hard work by the Harriet Lane crew during this very busy patrol,” said Cmdr. Dorothy Hernaez, Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane. “These operations are dangerous, often carried out at night or in less than ideal conditions. COVID-19 has certainly added an additional layer of complexity that we must account for in order to keep our crew safe while conducting operations at sea. Our Coast Guard women and men are some of the bravest people I have met. I’m very thankful for their personal sacrifices that help keep our country safe.”

On April 1, U.S. Southern Command began enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to disrupt the flow of drugs in support of Presidential National Security Objectives. Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security cooperated in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in counter-drug operations.

The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions for these three interdictions by United States Attorney’s Offices from the District of Puerto Rico, the Middle District of Florida and the Southern District of Florida. The law enforcement phase of​ counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Harriet Lane is a 270-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth.


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