Jacksonville Coast Guardsmen receive national law enforcement award

Southeastern Coast Guard News
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Coast Guardsmen at the Jacksonville-based Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron were presented with the United States Interdiction Coordinator’s Rotary-Wing Unit of the Year award during a ceremony at HITRON Thursday.

The award recognizes significant contributions to counter the increasing international and asymmetric threat posed by the trafficking of narcotics and other illicit substances, and was presented by George A. Russell, Jr., the deputy chief of the International Interdiction Branch Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Russell said the award is highly sought after due to the national recognition it brings, and HITRON was chosen by seven subject matter experts as the winner for its category from a list of 33 total unit and individual nominations.

“Not too many people in the world can do what the squadron does,” Russell said. “This is a world-class operation.”

Capt. Donna Cottrell, HITRON’s commanding officer, said since HITRON typically flies under the proverbial radar due to the law-enforcement aspect of the unit’s missions, it feels great to be recognized at the national level.

Members of HITRON aren’t strangers to USIC awards; the award presented Thursday is the squadron’s 4th consecutive USIC award. HITRON was also awarded for its performance in 2004 and 2005.

The squadron is located at Cecil Commerce Center, formerly Cecil Field, in Jacksonville. HITRON is the Coast Guard’s only helicopter squadron authorized to employ airborne use of force in a law enforcement role. HITRON operates aboard the Coast Guard cutter fleet and is a force multiplier within the national drug control strategy. Since its inception in 1998, HITRON has been directly involved in the interdiction of 244 drug smuggling boats carrying a total of 249 tons of cocaine and 14 tons of marijuana with an import value of more than $11 billion. During fiscal year 2012, HITRON successfully interdicted 21 go-fast boats, detained 76 smugglers, and interdicted nearly 20 tons of cocaine valued at $500 million.

USIC is responsible for the development of national interdiction policy and strategy. USIC oversees all U.S. programs and activities involved in achieving the supply reduction goals of the National Drug Control Strategy. USIC also ensures sufficient resources are provided by federal drug program agencies for interdiction and that their use is properly integrated and optimized.

Click the photo for more from the ceremony.

The command and a select group of crew members stationed at the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron in Jacksonville, Fla., represent HITRON at a ceremony during which HITRON was awarded the United States Interdiction Coordinator's Rotary-Wing Unit of the Year award Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, at HITRON. The award recognizes the superior performance of HITRON's front-line drug interceptors and those who supported them throughout 2012 and was presented by George A. Russell Jr., (right) the deputy chief of the International Interdiction Branch Office of National Drug Control Policy. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto)

The command and a select group of crew members stationed at the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron in Jacksonville, Fla., represent HITRON at a ceremony during which HITRON was awarded the United States Interdiction Coordinator’s Rotary-Wing Unit of the Year award Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, at HITRON. The award recognizes the superior performance of HITRON’s front-line drug interceptors and those who supported them throughout 2012 and was presented by George A. Russell Jr., (right) the deputy chief of the International Interdiction Branch Office of National Drug Control Policy. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto)

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