Monday, October 06, 2008

USS McInerney Returns Home After Six-Month Counter-Drug Deployment

By Lt. Kelly Chufo, USS McInerney Public Affairs Officer

USS McInerney (FFG 8) and attached Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 44 Detachment 8 returned home Oct. 5 after six-month counter-illicit trafficking deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The highlight of the deployment came on Sept. 13, when the crew and embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 404 captured a Self Propelled Semi-Submersible (SPSS) vessel containing seven tons of cocaine and four suspected illicit-traffickers. Throughout their deployment, McInerney intercepted 22 tons of cocaine.

McInerney left Mayport April 4 en route to the U.S. Southern Command area of focus, which encompasses the Caribbean, Central and South America, and surrounding waters.

McInerney made its first port visit at the island of Roatan, Honduras. While in Honduras, crew members conducted a community relations project that brought fresh water to over 30 homes in La Colonia, Honduras. Sailors also donated two pallets of Project Handclasp materials to a local clinic. Through Project Handclasp, a worldwide humanitarian and goodwill program, the U.S> Navyt collects donations from various private-sector organizations and companies and delivers them to people in need.

While in Central and South America, McInerney made stops in Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Panama; Manta, Ecuador; Salaverry, Peru; Golfito, Costa Rica; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

The ship's last port visit was in Cartagena, Colombia. In preparation for the stop, McInerney assembled an entire bridge watch team of Spanish speakers who navigated the ship into Cartagena giving commands only in Spanish.

"This was McInerney's final tribute to all the amazing people we met throughout Central and South America over the past six months and also a demonstration of our commitment to strong maritime ties with allies in the region," said Commanding Officer, Cmdr. C. K. Wheeler.

In addition to the community project in Honduras, McInerney's crew dedicated their liberty time to two other projects. While in Salaverry, Peru, McInerney painted two large dormitory buildings for a local orphanage, which serve as home and school for over 45 children. McInerney Sailors also gave their time, working in conjunction with Colombian Navy Sailors to paint and rehabilitate a local school in Cartagena, Colombia, and donated much needed school supplies to the school that teaches over 220 students daily.

McInerney Sailors achieved success on all levels, as a unit and individually. During the deployment, 78 Sailors earned their Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialists (ESWS) pins.

While deployed, McInerney was under operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO) and U.S. 4th Fleet conducting counter illicit trafficking operations for Joint Interagency Task Force-South in the SOUTHCOM area of focus. Once the ship returned to Mayport, U.S. 2nd Fleet took over operational control.

NAVSO, the Naval Component Command of SOUTHCOM, directs U.S. Naval Forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interacts with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. Various operations include counter-illicit trafficking, theater security cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training.