Coast Guard Cutter Tampa returns home after interdicting $154 million in drugs

Coast Guard Cutter Tampa file photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Ferdinando

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa returned to their homeport in Portsmouth, Virginia after an 80-day counter-drug patrol in the Eastern Pacific, Sunday.

The crew successfully executed the counter-narcotics mission, interdicting four vessels with a total of over 9,200 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $154 million dollars. The crew of the cutter also detained 12 suspected drug smugglers, boarded three additional vessels, and responded to one search and rescue case.

The cutter began the patrol by embarking an armed helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) in Mayport, Florida. Working together they were able to increase the Coast Guard’s ability to detect and stop vessels suspected of drug smuggling.

Prior to entering the primary patrol area, the crew of the Tampa conducted a training engagement with the Guatemalan Navy in Puerto Santo Tomás de Castilla as part of Operation Crested Eagle. The crew of the Tampa provided law enforcement training, tours of the ship, and engineering technical support for Guatemalan naval vessels.

The crew is looking forward to spending time with friends and family during a well-deserved stand-down period. They will then prepare for the biennial Tailored Ship’s Training Availability, a several week program designed to train the crew and assess the readiness of the cutter through a variety of drills.

“I am humbled and very proud of what our crew has accomplished during this patrol,” said Cmdr. Michael Cilenti, commanding officer of the Tampa. “Just keeping our 36-year old ship operating is a full time job, and our crew not only did that, but safely and professionally executed our counter-drug mission. Saving lives by keeping drugs off our streets and helping eliminate drug cartels’ destabilizing influence of our Central and South American neighbors is something we all care very deeply about. We are looking forward to getting home to see our loved ones; we would not be able to achieve the success we did without the tremendous support of our family and friends, for which we are all deeply appreciative.”

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