Operation Martillo: USS Underwood seizes US$27.5 million in drugs
By Dialogo August 09, 2012
MIAMI, U.S.A. – The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Underwood (FFG 36), recovered 49 bales of narcotics with a combined weight of 1,225 kilograms (2,700 pounds) from the Caribbean Sea during Operation Martillo on Aug. 3.
The seized drugs had estimated street value of US$27.5 million, according to law enforcement agents.
Operation Martillo is an international operation that gathers Latin American, Western Hemisphere and European nations and the United States in an effort to curtail illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.
The USS Underwood pursued a “go-fast” speedboat that dumped its load before law enforcement agents were able to board it on Aug. 2.
A Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft flying overheard reported the speedboat’s crew was dumping packages into the sea and informed the Underwood, which marked the position of the debris so the packages could be located in daylight.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Miguel Aponte, a member of the bridge watch team, spotted the first bale in the water around 8:15 a.m. Underwood sailors manned the boat deck and loaded a team, including two members of an onboard U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), into a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB). During the next few hours, sailors aboard Underwood used binoculars to search the surrounding area for bales while the RHIB team recovered anything spotted in the water.
“Right off the bat, we just start picking up bales that were floating in our area,” said a member of the LEDET. “After that, the ship vectored us in to different sections that they could see from a further distance and then also the [helicopter] vectored us in.”
Led by Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South, a component of U.S Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Operation Martillo (Spanish for “Hammer”) is a coordinated interagency regional security strategy to thwart transnational organized crime.
The USS Underwood is deployed to Central and South America and the Caribbean.