San Diego, California - The U.S. Coast Guard from Legend Class National Security Cutter USCGC Waesche (WMSL 751) marked a record year in counterdrug operations and offloaded more than 39,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $531 million at Naval Base San Diego.
More than two tons of that cocaine was seized from a self-propelled semisubmersible or SPSS in the Pacific Ocean off Central America, Sept. 6.
"We were all excited to find the SPSS," said Waesche crew Operations Specialist 1st Class Kevin Hoxworth. "It's like finding a unicorn because it's very rare that a cutter finds an SPSS."
Prior to the cocaine offload, the Waesche crew lined up Thursday morning on the pier of Naval Base San Diego for a press conference with Commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area and Coast Guard Defense Force West Vice Adm. Fred Midgette and their Commanding Officer Capt. James Passarelli.
"This is an impressive record and reflects the devotion to duty of our Coast Guard men and women; however, this isn't cause for celebration," said Midgette. "This cocaine showcases the significant threats our nation faced from violent transnational organized crime networks."
The Coast Guard and its interagency partners removed more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine worth over $5.6 billion in fiscal year 2016, which ran from Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016. The service's previous record was 367,700 pounds of cocaine removed in fiscal year 2008.
"Our Coast Guardsmen face significant risks posed by dangerous criminal organizations,'' said Passarelli. "Our crew preserved valuable evidence and kept millions of dollars of illicit narcotics off America's streets.''
The Coast Guard is the only military branch that can practice law enforcement at sea. So far, the crew on board Waesche has turned over narcotics from 25 separate busts that occurred in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Central and South America.
"We set a record for fiscal year 2016, but our work is far from over," Passarelli said.