The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) with embarked U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 402 seized an estimated $22 million in suspected cocaine, Jan. 7, 2022.
While on patrol, a maritime patrol aircraft spotted a suspected drug smuggling go-fast vessel (GFV) and Milwaukee was vectored in for an intercept. Milwaukee deployed her MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 22), Detachment 5 and a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB). The LEDET observed packages jettisoned into the water and then gained positive control of the GFV. After receiving permission to conduct a boarding, they recovered the packages and five suspected drug traffickers were detained.
“There is an electric atmosphere onboard and anytime we can accomplish a mission that has a direct impact on making America safer; it contributes to that winning mindset,” said Cmdr. Brian Forster, USS Milwaukee’s commanding officer. “The crew is excited to have accomplished our first boarding, and they performed flawlessly from start to finish. It is a good feeling knowing that a large number of drugs will not make it onto the streets of America or our partners in the Caribbean.”
Milwaukee and embarked LEDET recovered an estimated 315 kilograms of suspected cocaine worth an approximated street value of over $22 million.
“We are very pleased with the effectiveness of everyone’s response and the integration of all parties involved,” said Lt. Jordan Lachowsky, the LEDET’s officer in charge. “We’re looking forward to more opportunities and more successes in the near future.”
USS Milwaukee deployed Dec. 14, to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
On April 1, 2020, U.S. Southern Command began what was then known as Enhanced Counter Narcotics (CN) Operations in the Western Hemisphere to increase the disruption of illegal drug trafficking. This counter Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO)/CN operational approach, which has become enduring, supports our objectives to degrade the capabilities of TCOs and save lives. With our increased presence, we have bolstered support to U.S. and partner nation law enforcement by sharing information and intelligence to help expand target packages. Since then, our key partners have been involved in over 60% of drug disruptions since April 2020 (up from 50% in 2019). By strengthening partnerships, we counter threats together.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.