USS UNDERWOOD, At Sea -- The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Underwood (FFG 36) resumes patrols to support Operation Martillo in the Caribbean Oct. 1 after participating in the annual multinational exercise UNITAS 2012.
Underwood conducted counter-transnational organized crime (C-TOC) operations supporting Operation Martillo in August, and then diverted to participate in UNITAS in September.
The frigate returned to the western and southern Caribbean Sea to continue C-TOC operations until the ship completes its Southern Seas deployment to U.S. 4th Fleet and returns to homeport of Mayport, Fla., in November.
"Operation Martillo is an important mission for us because it is an opportunity to prevent illegal drugs from reaching the shores of the United States," said Cmdr. Michael Brasseur, executive officer of Underwood. "Our mission is to patrol an area of the Caribbean Sea and to deter and prevent drug traffickers from bringing their products to the U.S."
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. Led by Joint Interagency Task Force South (JITAF-S), a component of SOUTHCOM, 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.
Fourteen countries are participating in the operation: Canada, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
"This time around we will have the Colombian frigate ARC Antioquia (FM 53) and the British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dauntless (D-33) assisting us in patrolling our designated area," added Brasseur. "These extra assets will increase our chances of success for this mission."
This month's support of Operation Martillo will be the last part of Underwood's final deployment before she is decommissioned in March 2013.
"I think that we will be much more successful this time because we have learned lessons from our first go-around with Operation Martillo and we will use those lessons learned to execute better," said Brasseur. "I have a good feeling that we will make a difference and have a big impact on drug trafficking in the region."
JIATF South is a multiservice, multiagency national task force which conducts counter-illicit trafficking operations and intelligence fusion to detect, monitor, and handoff suspected illicit trafficking targets to law enforcement activities; promotes security cooperation and coordinates country team and partner nation initiatives in order to defeat the flow of illicit traffic.