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HSL 43 Det. 4 Returns from Counter Narco-Terrorism Deployment

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS061230-01
Release Date: 12/30/2006 4:19:00 PM

By Lt. Ryan Atwood, Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 43 Public Affairs

NORTH ISLAND, Calif. (NNS) -- The “Rat Pak” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 43, Detachment (Det.) 4, returned to San Diego Dec. 15 from a six-month counter narcotics deployment aboard USS Thach (FFG 43).

The detachment conducted operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The primary mission of the deployment was detection and monitoring of suspected drug smuggling vessels using Airborne Use of Force (AUF), the Navy’s newest tactic in the war on narco terrorism. AUF combines Navy helicopters with U.S. Coast Guard airborne controllers and gunners to use warning shots and disabling fire to stop drug trafficking speed boats. The speed boats previously out-ran slower Navy ships and outlasted fuel limited helicopters.

Squadron personnel integrated with Thach and U.S. Coast Guard Sailors to locate, identify and query vessels for boarding and search by the Coast Guard law enforcement team.

During the deployment, counter narcotic operations resulted in four successful drug busts. A combined total of nearly 23 tons of cocaine, with a street value estimated at $600 million, was seized and 34 drug-traffickers were detained.

In one instance Det. 4, used AUF by firing two rounds to disable the engines of a high-speed drug-trafficking vessel known as a “go fast” boat. After the boat was stopped, Det. 4 seized 1,000 lbs. of cocaine and captured four drug traffickers.

“For the first time in my aviation career I felt that all the training paid off. We were able to keep these drugs off the street and help keep America safe,” said Lt. Mike O’Sullivan, a Det. 4 pilot.

According to Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Robert Antonucci, the bust has made a lasting impression on him.

“There is nothing better than the job satisfaction that comes from training hard for a mission and accomplishing it. This mission (AUF) will always be a highlight of my career,” he said.

Over the course of the deployment, Det. 4 flew over 500 mishap-free flight hours.

“It was a team effort,” said Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Noah Demoss. “Every member of the detachment pulled together to provide whatever was needed. I am proud to work with such talented people.”

While deployed, the detachment visited Panama, Peru, and the Bahamas.

“I am proud to be part of such a superb group of aviation professionals,” said Lt. Cmdr. Sean McKamey, Det. 4’s officer in charge. “Our success is a testament to the dedication and patriotism of each Sailor in Detachment 4.”

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