Coast Guard crew members aboard the cutter Valiant intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible carrying 12,000 pounds of cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean this month, arresting four suspected smugglers in the process.
The 40-foot vessel, of a type often called a "narco sub" (though most are not fully submersible), was first detected and tracked by a maritime patrol aircraft. The Joint Interagency Task Force South, a multinational body that coordinates law-enforcement efforts in the waters around Central and South America, directed the Valiant to intercept it.
In July, yet-to-be-commissioned Coast Guard cutter Midgett passed through the Panama Canal and started a roughly 5,000-mile trip to Honolulu.
The Coast Guard accepted the Midgett in April, and it didn't leave the Mississippi shipyard where it was built until June 11. But the newest national-security cutter was ready as it transited the eastern Pacific, and with good reason — the ship helped intercept more than 2,100 pounds of cocaine before it even made it to its home port.
It was no surprise the dramatic Coast Guard video quickly went viral.
Shot on a coast guardsman's helmet camera, the one-minute clip posted to the Department of Defense's imagery website captured the remarkable end of a June 18 high seas pursuit that ended with one team member leaping aboard a moving submersible and pounding on the hatch until suspected drug runners opened up.
But the story of how Coasties took down the so-called "narco sub" began about 12 hours before the video took place, according to Capt. James Estramonte, the commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro, the high endurance vessel credited with its seizure.
That Coast Guardsman who banged on the hatch of a semi-submersible to catch a couple of alleged cartel drug runners in a viral video is now up for an award, the top enlisted Coast Guardsman said Wednesday.
"We will definitely recognize that person" with an appropriate award, said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaven.