Coast Guard Cutter Diligence crew returns to Wilmington

A Coast Guard Cutter Diligence pursuit team works to interdict a "go-fast" boat suspected of illegal drug smuggling. From left to right is Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Pridgen, Petty Officer Third Class Ryan Stone, Petty Officer 2nd Class George Fullenwider, Chief Petty Officer Robert Vanlandingham, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Jozan. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Cutter Diligence/Released)

A Coast Guard Cutter Diligence pursuit team works to interdict a “go-fast” boat suspected of illegal drug smuggling.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Cutter Diligence)

WILMINGTON, N.C. — The Coast Guard Cutter Diligence crew returned to Wilmington Wednesday following a 65-day patrol in the Caribbean Sea.

The Diligence crew was deployed in support of Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-South) and performed several Coast Guard missions, including counter drug operations and deterrence of illegal immigration.

Law enforcement personnel from the cutter stopped two smuggling vessels, seized 2,500 pounds of marijuana worth about $2.2 million and prevented approximately 375 kilograms of suspected cocaine from making it to the United States. The crew also worked closely with other Coast Guard cutters, a U.S. Navy ship and Dutch warships to assist in caring for more than 20 detainees from eight drug busts pending transfer to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for prosecution.

The cutter crew conducted flight operations multiple times throughout the patrol with MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) and Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico. The flight operations included deck landings and helicopter in flight refueling (HIFR), which is a refueling method for helicopter crews while in a hover near the cutter.

JIATF-South is a designated multiservice, multiagency national task force to detect, monitor, disrupt and dismantle illicit trafficking and threat networks in support of national and hemispheric security.

The cutter Diligence is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Wilmington, with a crew of approximately 80. The cutter crew’s primary missions consist of counter drug and migrant interdiction, enforcing federal fishery laws, and search and rescue operations. The cutter has been in service for more than 50 years, along with the other 28 medium endurance cutters, which are slated for replacement by the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). The OPC will have superior sensors, pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities, and interoperability with other military and federal partners.

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