Underwood Recovers 49 Bales of Drugs from Caribbean Sea
By Dialogo August 09, 2012
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Underwood (FFG 36), recovered 49 bales of narcotics from the Caribbean Sea during Operation Martillo, on Aug. 3.
Underwood pursued a “go-fast” speed boat late on Aug. 2, but it dumped its load before the frigate was able to effect a boarding. A Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft flying overheard, reported the “go-fast” dumping packages over the side and informed Underwood, which marked the position of the debris field in order to locate the packages 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). Over the next few hours, Sailors aboard Underwood used binoculars to search the surrounding area for more 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 helo [helicopter] vectored us in.”
An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Vipers of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light Four Eight Detachment Three launched to assist the search from the air.
“Initially we took off, were given two initial points to go between, searching back and forth using a linear pattern,” said Lt. j.g. Lance Herdon, one of the SH-60B pilots that flew the mission. “We got vectored in by the ship after calculating set and drift. We went to that area and began spotting the packages. We called the position back to the ship and they began directing the RHIB over in that area. We orbited the area and continued to find more packages.”
In the end, Underwood recovered approximately 1,225 kilograms of narcotics.
“Going wholesale price is $22,500 per kilo. So with 49 bales and 25 kilos per bale, we estimate about $27.5 million” worth of narcotics recovered today, according to a Naval Criminal Investigative Services Special Agent familiar with the case.
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.
Underwood is deployed to Central and South America and the Caribbean in support of Southern Seas 2012.