Thursday, February 25, 2010

Freedom Interrupts Drug Delivery in Western Caribbean

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, embarked aboard the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1), hovers over the position of illicit drugs dumped overboard by the crew of a high-speed "go-fast" vessel. Sailors and Coast Guardsmen from Freedom, left, and Colombian navy sailors in a patrol boat search the area beneath the helicopter. Freedom's boarding team recovered 247 kilos of cocaine from the Caribbean Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ed Early/Released)

USS FREEDOM, At Sea (NNS) -- The littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Freedom (LCS 1) achieved its first drug seizure Feb. 22 when it disrupted a high-speed "go-fast" vessel and recovered more than a quarter of a ton of cocaine.

Freedom, with embarked Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, an LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), was conducting counter-illicit trafficking (CIT) operations in U.S. 4th Fleet's Area of Responsibility when its crew located the vessel.

A MH-60S Sea Hawk from HSC 22 responded quickly and coordinated with Freedom and air assets from Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) to provide location data on the surface target of interest.

Following interception by the MH-60S, the vessel jettisoned its illicit cargo in the western Caribbean Sea. The "go-fast" subsequently entered Colombian waters, where the Colombian Navy took over the tracking and pursuit mission.

A response team of Sailors and Coast Guardsmen from Freedom coordinated with a Colombian Navy patrol boat and Colombian patrol aircraft to retrieve seven bales and 72 kilos of cocaine from the water. The drugs were seized by the LEDET as evidence in preparation for possible criminal prosecution.

The coordinated actions of the Navy, Coast Guard and JIATF-S with Colombian surface and aviation assets were instrumental to the successful interdiction of narcotics.

"Our combined team of ship's crew, (LCS Surface Warfare) Mission Package, aviation detachment and Coast Guard LEDET showed great teamwork and resolve," said Cmdr. Randy Garner, Freedom's commanding officer.

One of the unique features of the LCS is the flexibility and adaptability to configure from one warfare specialty to another – called "mission packages." Freedom currently is configured with its LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package, designed to combat small, fast-boat threats to the fleet.

Freedom, which will be homeported in San Diego, is currently on its maiden deployment in the Caribbean and the coasts of Central and South America under the operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet. Freedom is conducting CIT operations in support of JIATF-S, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Coast Guard District 7.