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USCGC Stone and HITRON crews returns after 61-day patrol

USCGC Stone and HITRON crews returns after 61-day patrol
Archive image: An aircrew aboard a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter pass by the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s aviation control shack during a counterdrug patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, March 8, 2018.
Crew members from Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) aircrew and Air Station Humboldt Bay deployed aboard Bertholf with the MH-65 Dolphin acting as a force multiplier during the cutter’s counterdrug patrol.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi.

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.​ —​ USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) crew and a HITRON aircrew returned to their homeport in Charleston following a 61-day patrol in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Joint Interagency Task Force South, and the U.S. Coast Guard Eleventh District.

Stone’s crew successfully interdicted two suspected drug smuggling vessels, recovering approximately 2,246 pounds of cocaine and 4,870 pounds of marijuana with an estimated combined street value of $57.1 million. The cutter’s crew subsequently transferred 20 suspected narcotics smugglers to the Seventh Coast Guard District and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) personnel, signaling the culmination of a successful joint interagency effort in the Eastern Pacific.

The Stone embarked observers from Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to perform joint operations to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) and conduct counter-drug operations off the coast of South America.

An embarked MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew onboard USCGC Stone from the HITRON (U.S. Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron) was integral in counter-drug operations. Interagency partners provided additional aerial surveillance and reconnaissance support throughout the patrol.

USCGC Stone and HITRON crews returns after 61-day patrol
Archive image: USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) arrives to Montevideo, Uruguay, on Jan. 25, 2021.
Stone was the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to call in Uruguay in over a decade. Stone’s crew familiarized their hosts on the Coast Guard’s full range of mission and operations, answering technical questions and sharing best practices.
Photo: U.S. Embassy Montevideo.

During the cutter’s port call in Manta, Ecuador, Stone’s commanding officer, Capt. Clinton Carlson, attended an international IUUF symposium with Arthur Young, the embarked National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration enforcement officer, to share experiences and increase awareness of the regional issue. The crew of the Stone also participated in a friendly soccer match with Cuerpo de Guardacostas de la Armada de Colombia personnel from the local coast guard station while in Manta.

«This is our crew’s first patrol outside of their initial shakedown cruise, and I am extremely proud of the dedication and pride they have shown toward getting qualified to conduct the missions expected of a national security cutter crew,» said Carlson. «Throughout these past months, everyone aboard displayed enthusiasm during the drills we’ve run every week and have proven that through teamwork and a shared understanding of the mission, we can accomplish even the most difficult tasks. I am honored to lead this impressive crew of Coast Guard women and men.»

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 interdictions by United States Attorney’s Offices from the Middle District of Florida, the Southern District of Florida and the Southern District of California. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the Eleventh Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guard members.

USCGC Stone and HITRON crews returns after 61-day patrol
The crews of U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class national security cutter USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) and the Colombian navy OPV-80 offshore patrol vessel ARC Victoria (PZE-48) conduct passing exercises, small boat operations, and swap personnel for lunch and a tour of the other country’s vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Dec. 4, 2021.
The U.S. and Columbia have signed agreements on trade, environmental protection, asset sharing, chemical control, ship-boardings, renewable and clean energy, science and technology, and civil aviation.
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Jess Duncan.

The Stone is the ninth Legend-class national security cutter in the Coast Guard fleet and currently homeports in Charleston, South Carolina. The national security cutters can execute the most challenging national security missions, including support to U.S. combatant commanders.

The Charleston-based Legend-class cutters fall under the command of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. Based in Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area oversees all Coast Guard operations east of the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf. In addition to surge operations, they also allocate ships to work with partner commands and deploy to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific to combat transnational organized crime and illicit maritime activity.

-USCG-

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