Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron gets new commander

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Capt. Joseph T. Baker assumed command of the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Friday at the HITRON facility at Cecil Field in Jacksonville.

Baker assumed the command of more than 233 personnel and 10 armed MH-65C dolphin helicopters. HITRON is America’s first and only airborne law enforcement unit trained and authorized to employ precision airborne use of force.

Baker comes to HITRON after serving as Chief of Aeronautical Engineering at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Baker was the program manager for the 1,400 employee Aviation Logistics Center which supports maintenance and logistics for the Coast Guard’s entire fleet of more than 200 aircraft. In this capacity, he was directly responsible for budget management of accounts totaling more than $670 million in aviation acquisition and operating funds, and served as Workforce Manager for the 2,500 member aviation enlisted workforce.

HITRON uses automatic weapons and precision sniper rifles to disable the engines on boats known as go-fasts. Go-fasts are high-speed, cigar boats drug smugglers use to transport drugs to the U.S. through the Caribbean Sea and the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The aerial law enforcement mission has been a hugely successful weapon in the war on drugs. Since its creation almost 10 years ago, crews have stopped over 176 tons of illegal, U.S. bound narcotics from reaching the streets, which has cost drug dealers, smugglers and cartels more than $9 billion and led to hundreds of arrests.

HITRON was tasked to develop airborne use of force tactics to counter possible terrorist threats to the U.S. following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The unit has been called upon to conduct homeland security operations for national security events such as the G-8 summit, the Democratic National Convention, the Republican National Convention and counter narcotic patrols.

Baker relieved Greiner, who assumed command of HITRON in July 2006, as the squadron was preparing to transition from the leased Agusta MH-68A to the Coast Guard-owned MH-65C helicopter. In the last three years, the squadron has tripled in personnel strength and doubled in facility size while maintaining operational continuity.

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