Date: November 10, 2014
Contact: (207) 438-2605
ENS Madeline Faul
USCGC RELIANCE Returns to Homeport
Kittery, Maine- The 75-member crew of the Coast Guard Cutter RELIANCE returned to their homeport at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine on Monday, following a nine-week patrol in the Caribbean Sea supporting the Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATF-S). RELIANCE sailed with an Aviation Detachment from the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron in Jacksonville, FL. The deployed helicopter and six person crew greatly increased RELIANCE’s ability to detect and interdict suspected smugglers.
During the deployment, the crew of the 210-foot RELIANCE was primarily responsible for conducting counter drug operations in support of U.S. and International Law. As a region, the Caribbean Basin and Central America is inundated by high levels of insecurity caused by extreme poverty, the drug trade, and unstable governments. As part of a the Coast Guard’s new comprehensive Western Hemisphere Strategy, cutters are tasked with detecting, deterring, preventing, and disrupting illicit maritime activities such as drug, migrant, and terrorist activities which will help to improve stability and prosperity in the region.
The patrol’s operational highlight occurred when RELIANCE intercepted and boarded a suspected drug smuggling “go-fast.” During a routine patrol before sunrise, RELIANCE detected two suspicious vessels off the Columbian coast. Powerful thunderstorms and pitch black conditions made the operation extremely difficult, but the helicopter and small boat eventually located the two go-fast vessels. One vessel was apprehended, but the second was able to flee into Colombian waters. RELIANCE’s boarding team embarked the go-fast vessel just after the crewmembers jettisoned a large quantity of contraband. The crew of the vessel was transferred to the Colombian Navy and millions of dollars of drugs ended up on the ocean floor rather than on American streets.
One week later, RELIANCE interdicted a south bound supply vessel during a daylight pursuit. Close coordination between the cutter, helicopter and small boat was required to stop the vessel after it did not respond to visual and audible orders to heave-to. Once the vessel was stopped, the boarding team approached the suspected smugglers and ordered them to put their hands in the air. The team then boarded the go-fast and discovered multiple gasoline drums, cell phones and other equipment indicative of a high-tech drug smuggler. The interdiction removed another important link in the smuggling network. The crew and small boat were later transferred to the Colombian Navy, and the intelligence gathered on the vessel will undoubtedly assist interagency maritime law enforcement efforts in the future.
Throughout the deployment, RELIANCE worked tirelessly with Federal and International partners at JIATF-S and the Coast Guard Seventh District to combat Transnational Organized Crime Networks operating in the Caribbean Basin. RELIANCE’s efforts directly contributed to the prevention of 14 metric tons of contraband from reaching American shores.
When asked about the patrol, Seaman Sebastian Alvarez, a member of RELIANCE’s Deck Force and a Spanish translator said, “Two months out at sea is tough on anyone, but on the RELIANCE we always pulled through. We had our literal ups and downs but always stayed on point.”
During RELIANCE 's 63-day deployment, the cutter traveled over 6,000 nautical miles operating throughout the Western Caribbean. The crew enjoyed port calls in Bocas del Toro, Panama, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Roatan, Honduras. During the period RELIANCE conducted three law enforcement boardings, three anchorings, 22 mooring evolutions and more than 100 helicopter launch and recovery evolutions.
After a very successful and grueling patrol, crewmembers are excited to return home to their loved ones in time for the holiday season.
Helicopter landing on CGC RELIANCE in the western Caribbean. Photograph by MK2 Joseph Gagnon.
USCGC RELIANCE underway in the western Caribbean. Photograph by FS3 Clinton McDonald.
RELAINCE small boat underway for operations in the Caribbean Sea. Photograph by FS3 Clinton McDonald
USCGC RELIANCE at sea with attached helicopter and small boat. Photograph by MK2 Joseph Gagnon.