JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant returned to homeport at Naval Station Mayport, Thursday, after a 63-day patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
During their nine-week, counter-drug deployment, the crew seized more than $116 million worth of illegal narcotics while operating off the coast of Central and South America.
The crew operated in support of Joint Interagency Task Force-South. While on patrol, the Valiant crew stopped and seized five vessels suspected of drug smuggling, detaining 16 suspected narco-traffickers, and recovering more than 7,800 pounds of illegal narcotics.
Valiant’s crew included a detachment from Jacksonville’s Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron. HITRON is America’s first airborne law enforcement unit trained and authorized to employ airborne use of force and intercept go-fast vessels suspected of transporting illicit narcotics toward U.S. borders.
“I’m extremely proud of what our crew accomplished during this patrol,” said Cmdr. Adam Chamie, the Valiant’s commanding officer. “Our 80 men and women patrolled over 14,000 miles, through the Panama Canal and back. The quantity of drugs they seized was impressive.”
In order to successfully interdict illegal narcotics, the Valiant crew works closely with local partner nations as well as Department of Defense assets and other U.S. agencies to detect and identify suspicious vessels. Upon locating such vessels, the crew launches law enforcement teams in interceptor boats to stop and investigate the suspected smugglers. Valiant also uses embarked aviation assets as a force multiplier to extend its reach.
“Our families, friends, and citizens of Jacksonville have much to be proud of,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Cory Driscoll, a boatswain’s mate and the ship’s senior enlisted leader. “Our crew has been looking forward to today’s homecoming to share their pride and accomplishments with their loved ones.”
Joint Interagency Task Force-South, a National Task Force under U.S. Southern Command, oversees the detection of illicit traffickers and assists U.S. and multi-national law enforcement agencies with interdiction of these activities. These law enforcement operations are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guard personnel or partner nation law enforcement agencies and occur under the tactical control of the 11th Coast Guard District in Alameda, California. The 11th District encompasses the Southwestern U.S. and coastal waters, as well as offshore waters from California to South America.
Coast Guard Cutter Valiant is a 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter with a 75-member crew. The Valiant, along with 26 other Medium Endurance Cutters, are slated for replacement by a new class of ship, named the Offshore Patrol Cutter. These new ships will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard’s maritime security and safety missions in support of national interests. The OPC will be an economical, multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities, and interoperability with other military and federal partners, superior to the cutters they will replace. Equipped with modern sensors, the OPC will provide the enhanced surveillance necessary to detect threats far from U.S. shores and meet the demands of the Coast Guard’s homeland security, search and rescue, law enforcement, and other vital missions.