Saturday, August 04, 2007

500 Mile Club

The last couple of days have been interesting, but not particularly rewarding. We stopped a coastal freighter suspected of having several tons of cocaine onboard. We found nothing, but couldn’t access every tank and void due to some freight containers stacked strategically on top of it, making it inaccessible. Anyway, we let them continue to port. Such is the way of Counter Narco-Terrorism operations.

We are currently shooting at another drug runner. No kidding, they just started as I was typing. When we get into a chase, all uninvolved personnel remain inside the skin of the ship. The last thing I need to be doing right now is crowding the bridge or combat watching the show, like all the additional officers, chiefs and senior petty offers are probably doing right now. It happens every time, despite the fact they should stay out of the way. So I'm staying out of the way - I have the next watch, so I'll get my piece of the action soon enough.

They have these boats that we call go-fasts; they're large, low-profile speedboats with three or four outboard engines and they can hold a couple tons of cocaine. They guzzle gasoline, though, so they stop at fishing boats strategically spaced throughout the eastern Pacific to refuel, sometimes to offload the cargo. This way, they leapfrog the shipment up to Mexico or other Central American countries where the product is processed or shipped to the U.S. They don't need to drop off in the U.S. because the border is so porous it's ridiculously easy to get the product in.

So we sit out here doing our best to intercept them. What stinks about these go-fasts is that they can go up to 40 knots and therefore can outrun us. So we use our helicopter to stay on top of them and shoot out their engines. Last time I did this in 2002, we weren't allowed to shoot from the helo, so we would follow them and drop message blocks with sternly-worded notes that they should stop. Even without shooting from the helo, sometimes all we have to do is pursue and wait until they break down or run out of gas.

When they’re fully loaded they don’t go as fast, which is why they dump their cargo in the water, like the one we were just shooting at did. They also know we’ll stop to pick it up – if we don’t they’ll come back for it and the drugs still get to the U.S. We’ve got a P-3 following him and when he breaks down or runs out of gas, we’ll be there. So we’re going out to collect the bales of cocaine that he just dropped in the ocean.

These moments of action are infrequent, we’ve been here for five weeks (I think) and this is only the second go-fast chase. The cargo ship was the third boarding; the other two were fishing vessels with no drugs onboard, but we rendered medical assistance to one of the fishermen on the second one. The rest of the time, we are training and fixing things and doing other things for fun.

For example, we started a couple of fitness challenges, like the Million Pound Club, for weightlifters. Say for example you lift a 20-pound weight 10 times, that’s 200 pounds. You do that the whole deployment and try to make 1,000,000 in 180 days. I signed up for the 500 Mile Club, where you add up the total of cumulative miles you run, walk, bike, etc. You can only do half on the exercycle, because it’s too easy to do the whole thing that way. Since I’m only going to be on deployment for three months (my relief arrives in October), I’m doing the full 250 on the exercycle, so I can actually accomplish 500 miles before I leave. I’ve got 188 miles with 65 days left to go, so not too bad so far - especially considering I broke a toe in El Salvador. Everyone who makes it gets a T-shirt, but I’m the only one who has designed one so far. I’ll post it if I get a little time later.

Hopefully the chase goes well and we can nail these guys. I wish I could take pictures of any of this, but if I do, it's all considered evidence and has potential to make or break a case. Had to stop writing for bit because we needed to do some fuel calculations, figure out how long our legs are for chasing these guys. Time for watch, wish us luck!

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4 Comments:

Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin bloody well said...

I find this amazing that, whilst something like this goes on, an observer can sit and blog during the action. What a world! Pretty amazing. What a dose of reality! Hope your watch went well!

BZ

09 August, 2007 15:55  
Blogger Robert M. bloody well said...

No offense, I admire your service, but I'm against drug laws, so unless the boat you were chasing contains PCP, I can't, in good conscience wish you luck.

Interesting post though.

14 August, 2007 16:30  
Blogger Larry bloody well said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 August, 2007 21:09  
Blogger Larry bloody well said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 August, 2007 21:11  

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