ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton and crew are scheduled to return to their homeport in Alameda Sunday after a 98-day patrol, consisting of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and several weeks of training and drills off the coast of Southern California.
The Stratton and crew played a central role in the counter-smuggling operations, bringing to bear its embarked law enforcement teams, deployable interceptor boats, armed helicopter, and a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS). Together, Stratton’s multi-mission capabilities contributed significantly to the counternarcotics mission and directly supported national and hemispheric security.
The combined efforts from Stratton and additional embarked crews resulted in the disruption of three suspected smuggling vessels carrying more than 3,600 pounds of cocaine. The crew offloaded the seized cocaine in San Diego Friday, along with approximately 9,000 additional pounds seized by three other Coast Guard cutters in six interdictions that occurred in the Eastern Pacific region from mid-January through February.
Stratton’s crew made history by being the first Coast Guard cutter to deploy fully equipped with a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) for an entire patrol. The sUAS had been previously used in drug interdiction as part of field testing but had not deployed aboard to a cutter for an entire patrol. The sUAS flew more than 35 sorties, accumulated over 260 flight hours and provided real-time surveillance and detection imagery during interdiction operations. This real-time imagery and persistent surveillance capability assisted Stratton’s embarked helicopter and law enforcement teams with the interdictions.
In addition to the contraband offloaded in San Diego, approximately 16 more tons of cocaine, seized by several Coast Guard cutters and a Royal Canadian Navy ship with a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment aboard operating in the Eastern Pacific drug transit zone, were offloaded in Florida Monday from the Coast Guard Cutter James.
During a port call in Golfito, Costa Rica, Stratton’s crew also served as ambassadors of good will through community service and Partner Nation Engagement Community Outreach. Crewmembers delivered supplies donated by Project Handclasp, based out of San Diego and conducted a cleanup of a local park. Hygiene products were delivered to the local medical clinic and soccer equipment was provided to local schools and a community team. Stratton crewmembers then went to a local park to mow grass, paint buildings and clean up yards in preparation for a community event scheduled the following week.
Stratton also spent three weeks in the vicinity of San Diego to undergo Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA) exercises. TSTA is conducted aboard every cutter in the fleet every two years as a baseline for standardization, training and proficiency. Stratton conducted more than 150 drills to ensure the crew was safe, effective and ready for all emergency operations and combat scenarios. The tremendous effort and skill put forth by Stratton’s crew earned the unit eligibility for the Battle ‘E’ Award for Excellence in all warfare areas.
“We had a tremendously successful deployment from start to finish and I could not be more proud of the crew,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, the Stratton’s commanding officer. “Stratton operates on the front lines attacking transnational criminal networks where they are most vulnerable, on our turf at sea. The addition of the unmanned aerial system added even more capability to help us protect our nation from the physical and social harm that comes from illegal drugs”
Stratton is the Coast Guard’s third 418-foot Legend-Class National Security Cutter, incorporated into the fleet to replace the 378-foot Hamilton-class cutters that were commissioned between 1967 and 1972. Stratton and the other NSCs routinely conduct operations from South America to the Bering Sea in support of global security operations and the Commandant of the Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy. The ship’s range, speed and ability to operate in extreme weather conditions enable this platform to conduct counter-narcotics, homeland security, alien-migrant interdiction, living marine resource enforcement, search and rescue and other Coast Guard missions far from shore.
Overall surveillance and counter-smuggling patrols in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean are coordinated by Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South, a national task force headquartered in Florida that executes detection and monitoring of illicit trafficking across all domains and facilitates international and interagency coordination to interdict, disrupt, and dismantle threat networks. The law enforcement phase of the counter-drug mission in the Eastern Pacific occurs under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District based in Alameda.