The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee with an embedded U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) announced recently that it had seized an estimated $22 million in suspected cocaine on January 7.
While on patrol, a maritime patrol aircraft spotted a suspected drug smuggling go-fast vessel (GFV) and Milwaukee was vectored in for an intercept. Milwaukee deployed her MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron and a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB).
The LEDET observed packages jettisoned into the water and then gained positive control of the GFV. After receiving permission to conduct a boarding, they recovered the packages and five suspected drug traffickers were detained.
“There is an electric atmosphere onboard and anytime we can accomplish a mission that has a direct impact on making America safer; it contributes to that winning mindset,” said Cmdr. Brian Forster, USS Milwaukee’s commanding officer. “The crew is excited to have accomplished our first boarding, and they performed flawlessly from start to finish. It is a good feeling knowing that a large number of drugs will not make it onto the streets of America or our partners in the Caribbean.”
Milwaukee and LEDET recovered an estimated 315 kilograms of suspected cocaine worth an approximated street value of over $22 million. With more than 90 percent of all trade traveling by sea, and 95 percent of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through fiber optic cables lying on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.
“We are very pleased with the effectiveness of everyone’s response and the integration of all parties involved,” said Lt. Jordan Lachowsky, the LEDET’s officer in charge. “We’re looking forward to more opportunities and more successes in the near future.”
USS Milwaukee deployed December 14, to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
On April 1, 2020, U.S. Southern Command began what was then known as Enhanced Counter Narcotics Operations in the Western Hemisphere to increase the disruption of illegal drug trafficking.
The increased Naval presence has bolstered support to U.S. and partner nation law enforcement by sharing information and intelligence to help expand target packages. As a result, key partners have been involved in over 60% of drug disruptions since April 2020, up from 50% in 2019. By strengthening partnerships, we counter threats together.
The combined military operations has employed maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security in the Caribbean, Central American, and South American region.