HITRON Snipers Taking On Smugglers

Mens Vogue has a very interesting story about the HITRON snipers. Here’s an excerpt

On a sunny fall day 300 miles off the west coast of Guatemala, Coast Guard pilot Dan Roberts readied for combat from the front seat of his MH-68A Stingray helicopter. In the back of the chopper, gunner Andrew Kramer — 30 years old and tightly wound — loaded his .50-caliber rifle, each bullet as thick and long as a hot dog and strong enough to rip through two inches of steel. Somewhere in the vast Pacific Ocean below, a band of armed smugglers in a camouflaged speedboat was barreling north with 4,000 pounds — $80 million — of cocaine onboard. They were aimed for the coast of Mexico, probably Acapulco, where a brutal and entrepreneurial Mexican cartel would ship the product north to the target market: the nostrils of America.

Roberts — who sports a shaved head and the swagger that comes with 17 years in the military — was on patrol for the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON), an elite team tasked with tracking down and attacking cocaine shipments from South America. Since the Navy cannot legally open fire on civilian boats that refuse to stop, they call in HITRON, the only U.S. military unit authorized to shoot out the boats’ motors — a tactic that spares a bloody mess to explain to the press or foreign governments. Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the helicopters are the military’s safest and most successful tool for stopping the drug boats known as “go-fasts,” and have a territorial range that includes the entire Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific Ocean.
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Roberts called for a weapons check, then gave the order: “Commence fire.” Kramer slung his other weapon, an M240 machine gun, into position and unleashed a series of 30 shots, each hitting just in front of the bow — no small feat of accuracy given the bouncing target and the high winds swaying the chopper. When the go-fast ignored them, Kramer trained his rifle’s laser-guided sights on the Yamaha engines — the bull’s-eye no bigger than a shoebox. With painstaking care to avoid the fuel tanks, he fired a single shot, burning through the metal housings and killing the first motor. Two shots later and the third and final motor was dead. “The driver just threw his hands up,” said Roberts. “Mission complete, no one was hurt, and the cavalry is on the horizon to take the bad guys into custody. This is a gentleman’s war.”

Editors Note: This story is not longer available on MensVogue so the links have been removed.

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