WASHINGTON — The crew of a San Diego-based Coast Guard cutter was recognized during the 2014 United States Interdiction Coordinator Awards at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
Coast Guardsmen from the Cutter Boutwell earned the 2014 United States Interdiction Coordinator Award in the Maritime Interdiction/Apprehension Category due to the crew’s actions during an Eastern Pacific deployment from July to October 2014. During the deployment, the crew interdicted six suspected smuggling vessels and disrupted an additional five smuggling attempts seizing more than 5,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $75 million.
“The crew of Boutwell is honored to receive the USIC award,” said Capt. Edward Westfall, the cutter’s commanding officer. “The effort of all our partners, and the crew, are essential to achieving success. This is especially true with aging platforms such as Boutwell.”
One of the highlights from crew’s deployment is the simultaneous interdiction of two suspected smuggling vessels with the assistance of the Coast Guard Cutter Alert from Astoria, Oregon, Sept. 11, 2014. The crew of Boutwell led an interdiction operation that included five surface assets and three aviation assets including a U.S. Navy P-3 aircraft in a chase that lasted nearly eight hours. Coast Guardsmen from Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron from Jacksonville, Fla., were able stop the vessels using warning shot and disabling fire after the suspects from one of the vessels began to jettison contraband during the pursuit. Coast Guardsmen recovered the narcotics, which resulted in the seizure of more 970 pounds of cocaine worth more than $14 million, and apprehended seven suspected drug smugglers.
“Coast Guardsmen and our interagency and international partners are on the frontlines in the effort to combat the threats posed by dangerous transnational organized criminal networks in the Eastern Pacific,” said Vice Adm. Charles Ray, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area in Alameda, California. “For Coast Guardsmen like those on Boutwell, this is more than about keeping drugs off U.S. streets. This is about ensuring safety, security, stability and prosperity in our Nation and in the Western Hemisphere.”
Coast Guardsmen regularly deploy to known drug transit zones off the coasts of Central and South America to interdict large shipments of cocaine and other illicit narcotics. These servicemembers along with interagency and international partners continue to make progress in U.S. efforts to stem the flow of illegal narcotics through drug transit zone of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. In Fiscal Year 2015, the Coast Guard seized more than 158,244 pounds of cocaine seized and apprehended 292 suspected smugglers in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. This is more than Fiscal Years 2011 - 2014 combined.
"My heartfelt congratulations go to the crew of the Cutter Boutwell," said Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. "I'm heartened that others recognize what I see every day. The Boutwell crew's efforts are a prime example of the hard work and tenacity displayed by all our law enforcement personnel and their partners on the front lines. Together they protect our nation from the scourge of illegal drugs, and help erode the power of transnational criminal organizations that spread violence and instability wherever they operate," he said.
The annual USIC awards recognize significant contributions to continuing efforts to counter the threats posed by the international trafficking of narcotics and other illicit substances, said the ONDCP. The crew of Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, California, was also recognized for distinguished performance throughout 2014 in the planning and execution of major counter narcotics operations in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Florida, the Eleventh Coast Guard District in Alameda, and the broader White House National Drug Control Strategy.
“The achievements of all the 2014 nominees were truly exceptional and made the selection process a difficult task,” ONDCP’s Acting Deputy Director for Supply Reduction James C. Olson, the U. S. interdiction coordinator.
According to the ONDCP, this year over 30 unit and individual nominations were reviewed by an interagency selection panel comprised of representatives from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense and the Intelligence Community.