Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team
The men and women of the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team, homeported in San Diego, CA, maintain one of the largest areas of responsibility in the Coast Guard. From the hostile waters in the Northern Arabian Gulf, through remote atolls in the Territory of Guam to the resort islands of the Caribbean, this is their workspace.
And their mission is constantly changing. Whether it's chasing drug traffickers or stopping smugglers, the Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team is highly trained to deal with these scenarios.
The Coast Guard formed Law Enforcement Detachments, better known as LEDET's, in 1982. Their primary mission has since been to deploy on U.S. Navy (USN) ships in support of counter drug law enforcement. These LEDET's originally deployed only on USN "ships of opportunity" transiting or operating in areas frequented by illegal drug traffickers. Due to the success of these early LEDET's, the Coast Guard began to assign teams to each USN surface vessel transiting a drug interdiction area for an extended period of time.
Born out of opportunity, the LEDET program has grown into a necessary element of high seas interdiction. Today, the once scattered LEDET's have been consolidated into three Tactical Law Enforcement Teams, or TACLET's, located in Yorktown, Miami, and San Diego.
In order to combat seagoing smugglers, LEDET's must endure one of the most unpredictable schedules in the Coast Guard. Between 1998 and 1999, the LEDET's of PACTACLET averaged more than 200 days away from homeport. It's a long time to be away from home, but it's really paid off in results. Since 1995, PACTACLET has enjoyed enormous success. Its LEDET's have played a part in the successful interdiction of 61.47 tons of cocaine, 6.23 tons of marijuana and 17 tons of hashish.
LEDET 104 seized a go-fast vessel after a two hour chase aboard the USS VALLEY FORGE. The crew attempted to scuttle their vessel before being boarded. The crew was subsequently detained in the front of the go-fast for maximum officer safety.
In 2000 alone, PACTACLET personnel contributed to the interdiction of 18.6 tons of cocaine; nearly one-fifth of the Coast Guard's record setting seizure total for the year. In FY2000, PACTACLET boarding teams interdicted 18,000 pounds of cocaine aboard go-fasts and fishing vessels on the high seas. Flight observers, post-deployment analysis teams, and personnel deployed to assist patrolling Coast Guard cutters assisted in the discovery and recovery of an additional 18,600 pounds of cocaine.
One of the most dangerous aspects of the job for any boarding team is an Alien Migration Interdiction Operation, or AMIO, case. Nothing will turn a "green" boarding team member into an seasoned professional in less time than a boat full of anxious, possibly dangerous, illegal migrants.
The AMIO scenario is the epitome of team training. PACTACLET has been training its personnel to deal with AMIO cases for years and keeps a deployable team on a six-hour recall year-round to deal with the threat. Since 1995, PACTACLET LEDET's have intercepted 388 Chinese, 891 Ecuadorians, and dozens of Mexicans bound for the US.
129 Ecuadorian migrants were intercepted by LEDET 101 in September 1999.The fishing vessel DIOSA DEL MAR was being used to smuggle migrants from Ecuador to Central America for further transfer to the United States. PACTACLET's ready team alone has deployed to Guam four times in the last five years to respond to District 14's requests for assistance. Hundreds of illegal Chinese migrants bound for this remote US territory have been repatriated to China as a result.
From 2000-2001, LEDET 101 intercepted 244 Ecuadorian migrants. In 2001, LEDET 105 intercepted 520 Ecudorian migrants.
The most dangerous AMIO faced by PACTACLET was in 1998 aboard the M/V CHIH YUNG. 172 Chinese migrants had been interdicted by a Coast Guard cutter off the coast of Mexico, and needing as many experienced personnel as possible, the cutter requested PACTACLET support. Two teams were deployed and upon arrival found a hostile crowd being stirred up by its leaders. For weeks, the LEDET and the cutter's boarding teams turned back riots, ended hunger strikes, and prevented suicide attempts by the desperate migrants. All 172 migrants were safely transferred to INS officials in San Diego for further disposition.
Unbeknownst to many, the Coast Guard maintains a boarding team year-round for Maritime Interdiction Operations in the Northern Arabian Gulf. The purpose is to intercept merchant vessels attempting to violate the United Nations' sanctions levied against Iraq. The boarding teams consist of personnel from the three different TACLET's. Each LEDET deploys to Bahrain for 60 days, but once there, the missions each LEDET may perform vary widely.
The first LEDET enjoyed great success in training and operations. The VBSS (Vessel Board Search and Seize) teams of nine American and two British Naval warships were trained in boarding procedures and container climbing. The LEDET also conducted surge operations with the Navy's elite MK V special boat squadron and trained the Kuwaiti Coast Guard. The LEDET also captured two UN sanctions violators during boardings with the US Navy, one being a seizure of the Honduran flagged tanker AL MUSTAFA smuggling 2,300 metric tons of Iraqi diesel fuel through the Northern Arabian Gulf.
The second LEDET arrived amidst the terrorist bombing of the USS COLE in Yemen. All USN surface assets were immediately ordered out to sea, leaving the LEDET ashore during the intense Threat Condition DELTA. The LEDET's expertise was subsequently called upon to train local naval security forces and Bahrain's Harbor Patrol units in counter-terrorism. After several weeks, the LEDET were once again allowed to train VBSS teams, deploy on surface assets, and board suspect vessels.
Over the past year, three Deployable Pursuit Boats (DPB) were delivered to PACTACLET and two DPB teams were created to head-up the new initiative. Designed to combat the go-fast threat, these 38 foot DPB's can carry a team of six Coasties at speeds in excess of 50 knots. An entirely new weapons program using the newly approved M4 rifles and engine disabling shotgun ammunition was developed to stop go-fast smugglers in their tracks.
A less than lethal munitions program was also created for use by the DPB teams.
The first deployment, completed during the first quarter of FY2001, disrupted at least two drug trafficker logistic supply lines, inhibited several go-fast events, and significantly contributed to the discovery of a stranded go-fast and the recovery of 2.87 metric tons of cocaine.
PACTACLET's people are everywhere. They're training the world's navies, assisting foreign governments, observing maritime traffic, acting as LE experts aboard Coast Guard cutters and patrolling aboard USN and USNS ships. So whether their next boarding is a suspect fishing vessel, an oil smuggling tanker, a decrepit migrant ship, or an elusive go-fast vessel, the Coast Guard can count on the teams of PACTACLET to be ready.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|