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Astoria Coast Guard cutter seizes cocaine, marijuana off C. America


The Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast returned home to Astoria Sunday after successfully completing a two-and-a-half month counter-drug deployment in the Eastern Pacific, officials said.

Patrolling international waters off the coast of Central America, Steadfast’s crew disrupted two narcotics smuggling ventures, leading to the interdiction of more than 700 pounds of cocaine and approximately 170 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of $11 million.

The 210-foot cutter deployed in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South with the primary mission of detection and interdiction of illegal narcotics trafficking. JIATF South is a designated national task force that coordinates with interagency and international partners to illuminate transnational organized crime networks and support interdiction and apprehension by U.S. and partner nation law enforcement agencies.

Steadfast’s crew was part of a surge of Coast Guard forces to the drug transit zone off Central and South America to combat transnational organized crime organizations responsible for instability and violence throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Since the surge in forces, there has been a significant rise in illicit drug interdictions by the Coast Guard in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific Ocean. Most recently, the Coast Guard set a record for illicit drug removal by stopping more than 443,000 pounds of cocaine in Fiscal Year 2016, which ran from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016.

The Steadfast crew’s accomplishments were not limited to disrupting the flow of illegal drugs, as they also assisted in the successful resolution of two search and rescue cases. The crew was instrumental in supporting the safe recovery of a vessel found adrift off of the coast of Southern California and worked in conjunction with the Mexican Navy to aid in locating an overdue U.S. flagged sailing vessel.

Steadfast’s crew traveled 12,000 miles and earned more than 50 qualifications during this deployment, beginning the patrol by participating in Tailored Ship Training Availability (TSTA) at U.S. Naval Station Everett, Wash.

TSTA is a training assessment period where the crew conducts drills for engineering casualties, damage control, seamanship and surface combat. During the two-week training and evaluation period, the crew completed a total of 110 drills and exercises, capturing the prestigious Battle “Excellence” authorized in all four areas of professional expertise.

Steadfast’s crew also participated in a community relations event in Mazatlan, Mexico, by assisting the Emiliano Zapata School in a major refurbishment and reconstruction project.

In coordination with the U.S. Consulate Hermosillo, the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) Humanitarian Assistance Program, Mexican Social Services and the Mexican Navy, Steadfast’s crew procured supplies and equipment for the school valued at more than $2,500.

Working side by side with members of the U.S. Consulate, parents and teachers, the crew repainted and repaired classrooms and the exterior of the school, enhancing the learning environment for the students and strengthening international partnerships.

The Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast is a 49-year-old Reliance Class Cutter, homeported in Astoria since 1994. Prior to Astoria, the Steadfast was based in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the cutter earned the nickname “El Tiburon Blanco,” or “White Shark,” from drug smugglers for crews’ notoriously effective law enforcement operations in the Caribbean.

Steadfast was the first cutter in U.S. Coast Guard history to be awarded the gold marijuana leaf, indicating one million pounds of marijuana seized.

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