Humboldt Bay-based Coast Guard crew returns home after counterdrug deployment

Pallets of seized suspected contraband sit on the deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf prior to being offloaded by Bertholf’s crew at B Street Pier, San Diego, March 20, 2018. Over 36,000 pounds of cocaine was seized in 17 interdictions by five different cutters in the Eastern Pacific between February and early March. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon/released).

Pallets of seized suspected contraband sit on the deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf prior to being offloaded by Bertholf’s crew at B Street Pier, San Diego, March 20, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon/released).

MCKINLEYVILLE, Calif. — A Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and crew returned home Thursday following a 77-day counterdrug patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf.

A maintenance team of three Sector Humboldt Bay flight mechanics deployed with the helicopter to the cutter in January to support the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON).

“This was definitely a unique opportunity for us, to have a Humboldt aircraft and crew with HITRON pilots and a gunner,” said Cmdr. Brendan Hilleary, the Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay operations officer. “It’s something that’s not normally done, but they worked together, and it turned out really well.”

While deployed, the Humboldt Bay crew kept the helicopter operational for the HITRON team, who flew it to search for vessels suspected of smuggling narcotics.

The Bertholf crew completed four law-enforcement boardings that resulted in the seizure of 5,045 pounds of cocaine and seven gallons of liquid cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $78 million wholesale.

The crew completed the patrol Tuesday with a 36,000-pound bulk cocaine offload, worth more than $539 million wholesale, in San Diego. The offload represented 17 separate interdictions made by the Coast Guard cutters Bertholf, Diligence, Harriet Lane, Venturous and Bear since Feb. 8.

“The patrol is a great example of how Coast Guard men and women from different units work together to support this important mission,” said Hilleary. “I’m proud we were able to be part of an operation that can ultimately help keep our country and community’s streets safer.”

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