Coast Guard Cutter Legare returns home after $56 million drug bust and post-Hurricane Isaac response

Mid Atlantic Coast Guard NewsPORTSMOUTH, Va. — A Portsmouth-based Coast Guard cutter and crew returned to their homeport Wednesday following a two-month counterdrug patrol in the Caribbean Sea where the crew seized more than two tons of contraband Sept. 20 and helped with post-Hurricane Isaac response in the Gulf of Mexico Aug. 30.

The Coast Guard Cutter Legare, a 270-foot medium endurance cutter, patrolled the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico conducting training, boardings and disaster relief.

Legare detoured through the lower Mississippi River Delta Aug. 30 on its way to the Caribbean to help Gulf region-based Coast Guard and partner agency responders affected by the devastating effects of Hurricane Isaac. For four days, the Legare’s crew boarded foreign merchant vessels bound for ports upriver, provided law enforcement presence and functioned as a critical search and rescue and communications platform while local Coast Guard units were still recovering from the storm.

In September, Legare’s boarding team found 51 cocaine-filled bales in a fishing vessel’s hold. The fishing vessel crew was detained and the contraband, weighing in at more than two tons with an estimated worth of $56 million, was seized. The remaining evidence was later transferred to the Nicaraguan Navy for further processing.

Legare’s patrol highlights include:

  • Three days of training at Savannah, Ga., where the crew completed deck landing qualifications. This required training helped 13 aviators from six air stations and 27 deck crew from several cutter commands gain skills in shipboard flight operations.
  • Airborne use of force training at Naval Station Mayport in Mayport, Fla., to practice ship, helicopter and cutter small boat operations designed to increase the cutter’s law enforcement ability to successfully interdict suspected drug smuggling vessels.

Coast Guard cutters’ counterdrug patrols support Operation Martillo, an international, interagency, counter-illict trafficking effort focused on sharing information and bringing together air, land and maritime assets from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and Western Hemisphere and European partner nation agencies.

The 21-year-old Legare and the Coast Guard’s fleet of other 26 medium endurance cutters are slated to be replaced by a new fleet of Offshore Patrol Cutters that will have the endurance to operate more than 50 miles offshore, to carry out the Coast Guard’s maritime security and safety missions. The OPC will be an economical, multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interagency interoperability. Its advanced technical features include modern sensors and enhanced surveillance capabilities 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.

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