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Homeland Security

Navy, Coast Guard seize $13 Million of Cocaine in the Caribbean

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS120621-42

From U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

USS ELROD, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Elrod (FFG 55) and embarked U. S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), interdicted a suspected smuggling vessel, recovering more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine, worth about $13 million, June 10, during Operation Martillo.

The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard team also detained four suspected drug smugglers during the interdiction.

A U.S. Navy maritime P-3 Orion patrol aircraft spotted the "go-fast" vessel and the Elrod moved to intercept. The Norfolk, Va.-based frigate launched a helicopter and rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) with a Coast Guard boarding team to intercept the suspect boat.

"The level of dedication and seamless teamwork between the crew of Elrod, the embarked U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement team and our HSL 60 helicopter detachment are all directly responsible for making this interdiction a success," said Cmdr. Jack Killman, Elrod commanding officer.

Overall coordination of counter-drug patrols and surveillance in the Caribbean Sea is managed by Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) headquartered in Key West, Fla. U.S. maritime law enforcement and interdiction operations in the Caribbean are under the tactical control of the Seventh Coast Guard District.

"Operation Martillo is one component in the USG's whole-of-government approach to combating the spread of TOC in Central America and the use of the Central American littorals to transshipment routes for illicit drugs, weapons, and cash," said Rear Adm. Kurt Tidd, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F).

More than 80 percent of cocaine documented making its initial movement out of South America into Central America and moving toward North American markets moves via noncommercial maritime conveyances along littoral routes.

LEDETs are an armed deployable specialized force under the U.S. Coast Guard's Deployable Operations Group. They were created to support narcotics interdiction operations aboard U.S. Navy and allied warships and are capable of supporting Department of Defense national defense operations. LEDETs provide specialized law enforcement capability and maritime security capabilities to enforce U.S. laws across a full spectrum of maritime response situations, maritime security augmentation and maritime interdiction anti-piracy operations.

"Teamwork is critical to a LEDET's operational successes," said Cmdr. Robert Landolfi, Tactical Law Enforcement Team South's commanding officer. "The Coast Guard and Navy partnership ensures a highly capable presence in the operational theater for sustained periods."

Operation Martillo (Spanish for 'hammer') is a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation is being led by Joint Interagency Task Force-South, a component of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). Operation Martillo is a component of the U.S. government's coordinated interagency regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transnational organized crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative.

COMUSNAVSO/C4F supports Operation Martillo as well as other USSOUTHCOM joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

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