Coast Guard Cutter Munro returns home to Alameda following 98-day counterdrug patrol

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Lee, an electronics technician aboard Coast Guard Cutter Munro, hugs his dog in Alameda, California, after returning to homeport, July 15, 2019. The national security cutter returned after a 98-day counter-narcotics patrol to the Eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Ryan Estrada/Released)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Lee, an electronics technician aboard Coast Guard Cutter Munro, hugs his dog in Alameda, California, after returning to homeport, July 15, 2019.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Ryan Estrada)

ALAMEDA, Calif. – The crew aboard Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) returned home to Alameda Monday following a three month counter-drug patrol in international waters off the coasts of Central and South America in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

This was Munro’s first counter-drug patrol since its commissioning in 2017, and resulted in drug seizures onboard five “panga” style vessels, one low-profile go-fast vessel, one fishing vessel, and one self-propelled semi-submersible vessel.

The interdiction of the self-propelled semi-submersible on June 18th resulted in the removal of over 17000 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $232 million, making it the Coast Guard’s largest single seizure since 2015. The eight interdictions resulted in the total seizure of more than 31,000 pounds of illicit narcotics worth an estimated $467 million in wholesale value.

During the patrol, Munro’s crew conducted over 230 flight evolutions with an embarked helicopter from the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON), which specializes in providing airborne use of force during maritime drug interdiction efforts.

Munro’s embarked HITRON team utilized disabling fire on the outboard engines of two fleeing suspect vessels, allowing the cutter’s boarding teams to gain positive control. This was HITRON’s most successful deployment since the unit’s inception twenty years ago.

“I’m incredibly proud of this crew and their accomplishments,” said MUNRO’s Commanding Officer, Capt. James Estramonte. “The success of this patrol is a testament to their hard work and dedication. As they spend some well-deserved down time with their families, they can rest assured that they’ve made a difference by preventing this poison from reaching our streets, and that they’ve taken some of the profits out of the pockets of international drug cartels.”

The Munro offloaded the contraband, along with 8000 pounds of drugs seized by two other Coast Guard cutters, last Thursday in San Diego. The total amount offload was over 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $569 million.

Vice President Pence, James W. Carroll, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, DEA acting administrator Uttam Dhillon, and Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area, attended the event and gave remarks to the crew and media.

“Our men and women on the frontlines face the highest levels of cocaine cultivation and smuggling ever, and the mission of our Coast Guard crews is fraught with challenge,” said Fagan.

70% of the Coast Guard’s offshore presence is the service’s aging fleet of medium endurance cutters, many of which are over 50 years old, Fagan noted. “In order to maximize effectiveness, their replacements, the Offshore Patrol Cutters, must feature the same advanced capabilities that national security cutters like Munro have utilized to be so successful.”

The Munro is the sixth of the Coast Guard’s legend class national security cutters. National security cutters feature advanced command-and-control capabilities, aviation support facilities, stern cutter boat launch and increased endurance for long-range patrols to disrupt threats to national security further offshore.

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