United States Coast Guard Heroics

Most folks without direct connection to the United States Coast Guard have, at best, a hazy notion of what this 5th-branch of America’s military actually does, other than rescue people and stuff.  Fact is they do a ton more, involving our ocean, lake, and river waterways, from pollution abatement to the extremely important mission, these days, of drug interdiction work, both by air and sea.  In a typical year, our Coast Guard rescues, on average, 3,600 individuals and stops millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs from reaching our shores annually.

One such intended international drug delivery, headed one way or another for the U.S., was stopped recently at sea, and was videotaped. It received wide-spread on-line and televised viewing due to the dramatic nature of the action. If you haven’t yet seen it, look for it on YouTube.  You’ll be mightily impressed.

On June 18, 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter MUNRO was out patrolling in the Pacific Ocean off the South American coast, when the crew spotted a vessel known in the drug-running trade as a semi-submersible.  It’s a small, dark, submarine-like craft that can move along at a speed of about 10-knots, running ever-so-slightly below the surface with a noticeable hatch sticking above the water line on the front end.  They are very difficult to spot during the daylight, let alone at night, due to its low, dark profile moving amidst the normal ocean swells.

Our Cutter spotted the vessel and proceeded to pull alongside at the same speed. While both crafts were moving, again at an estimated 10-knots, with significant ocean water spilling over the length of the submersible, a specially-trained Coast Guardsman, equipped it appeared for combat, like you might expect a SEAL or Green Beret to be, jumped from the moving Cutter onto the back of the drug-running submersible.  Then, fighting to keep his balance along the top of that vessel, with nothing to hang onto, he made his way forward to the hatch in front.  He then pounded on the hatch lid several times with his fist! The hatch opened, and thankfully what greeted that exceptionally-brave Coast Guardsman were two outstretched arms of surrender, rather than a weapon, which would have resulted, of course, in tragedy for that Coast Guard member who displayed considerable training, skill, and courage in achieving that dramatic take-down at sea.  This stop and capture resulted in a total confiscation of 17,000-pounds of cocaine, with an estimated value of $230-million, that was denied access to America’s streets.  Five suspects from the semi-submersible were taken into custody.

Drug searches and interdictions are carried out by our Coast Guard every day.  Perhaps not all as singularly daring as the one just witnessed by the nation on video, but all presenting challenges, and certainly danger from those who may be armed and determined to defend themselves, whether the intercept is initiated and achieved by sea, air or a combination of both. This mission, as well as the perhaps more often media-reported search & rescue function, along with port security, aids to navigation placement, and environmental preventive or ship spillage abatement efforts along our nations waterways, form the bulk of what our Coast Guard provides to our nation every day and night, regardless of weather, especially when it comes to saving lives at sea, whether persons stranded in a boat off-shore or someone taken ill on a cruise ship out in the ocean.  Coast Guard lives are at risk with every rescue or drug mission.  It’s challenging, dangerous, but also extremely rewarding work.

And all those missions, and others, are achieved with fewer uniformed personnel than there are among the ranks of the New York City Police Department!  Regardless of size, their achievements far exceed their numbers.  They are our heroes in blue, by air or vessel, whether in our ports, along our coastal and inland waterways, or well out at sea, both at home and abroad.  As can be clearly seen, our nation’s Coast Guard ranks right up there with the other four military branches, and deserves to be counted, and respected, as one serving right along side them.  As their proud historic motto, “Semper Paratus” clearly states, and promises, America’s Coast Guard is “Always Ready.”