The Coast Guard said the interdiction marks the
first time an armed U.S. Coast Guard helicopter
embarked on a foreign-flag military vessel in support
of counterdrug operations.
Sector San Juan is responsible for all Coast Guard
missions in the Eastern Caribbean area. This includes
enforcement of laws and regulations of the United
States relative to, among other things, national
defense, smuggling and counternarcotics operations.
CAPT Drew Pearson, commander of Coast Guard
Sector San Juan, has been in charge since May 2011.
He said that since he has arrived he has noticed an
uptick in drug smuggling attempts and related violence in Puerto Rico and the surrounding countries. As
a result, the Coast Guard, which is overseen by the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has taken
aggressive action to stem the activity under Operation
The service said Operation Unified Resolve contributes to the interagency results being achieved locally under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts among the Coast Guard, DHS, and commonwealth and territorial law enforcement partners,
who are working to detect and disrupt illicit maritime
trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“One of the main challenges that we have is a persistent adversary that wants to deliver drugs to the citizens around the world,” Pearson said.
The sector commander, who oversees 650 active-
duty, Reserve and civilian men and women, said he
also has a strong relationship with the multiagency
Joint Interagency Task Force South, based at Naval Air
Station Key West, Fla.
“No one agency can solve this problem on its own,
but when we work as partners it’s key to our success.
It’s not just about what’s coming to the U.S., it’s
also about what’s moving throughout the region,”
A major part of the Coast Guard’s fleet modernization program is the deployment of the Fast Response
Cutter (FRC) and future Offshore Patrol Cutter
(OPC). The service plans to build 58 FRCs to replace
the 110-foot Island-class patrol boat. The Seventh
District is slated to get the first 18, and seven have
been delivered thus far.
Pearson is excited to have a future FRC, slated to be
Richard Dixon, in the next year.
“We can’t wait to get our hands on one. It’s going to
be a game changer,” he said.
FRCs have been deployed to his operating area, but
none are stationed there. His sector currently is building infrastructure to support them along with undergoing a $17 million pier construction project.
The OPC, which is still years away from cutting
steel, is a highly desired asset.
Pearson said the OPC project is key for the future of
the Coast Guard.
“We have to get those aging cutters replaced because
without the OPC we are going to fall short in our ability
to carry out not just our counterdrug mission, but all our
missions throughout the Coast Guard,” he said.
Drug smugglers use different techniques to skirt
authorities and get narcotics into the United States,
such as semi-submersibles. But while Pearson said
smugglers typically stick to more conventional methods in his area, such as go-fast boats or disguised fishing vessels, it’s no less difficult trying to stop them.
“We are always trying to stay a step ahead of any
adversary and that’s sometimes a challenge with the
funding they have to carry out what they do, but we
aggressively attack it with our partners to make sure we
are staying ahead of them,” he said.
As for the future, Pearson sees continuing healthy
relationships with partner agencies as the Coast Guard
aggressively patrols and pursues drug smugglers.
Michael O’Hanlon, a homeland security expert for
the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said
these partnerships for the Coast Guard and Navy are
vital to maritime national security.
“We simply don’t have enough Navy assets to do it
with our big ships alone, especially as budget cuts and
fleet downsizing curtail even further our ability to do
these sorts of operations closer to home — since they
are often the first to go when belts have to tighten,”
O’Hanlon said. ■
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / MARCH 2014
Crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Farallon
offload 300 pounds of cocaine Jan. 29 at Coast Guard Base
San Juan following an at-sea interdiction approximately 60
nautical miles off the northwest coast of Aguadilla, Puerto
Rico, Jan. 27. The crew of Farallon transferred custody of
the $3.5 million drug shipment and three suspected Dominican Republic smugglers to Drug Enforcement Agency special agents and Customs and Border Protection officers.