Getting it done with the Junipers

You don’t typically think of a 225-foot Juniper-class Coast Guard buoy tender as a national defense (MARDEZ) and homeland security asset, but Coast Guard Cutter Aspen just returned to her homeport last week after sailing nearly 7,000 nautical miles during a 30-day patrol, which included a cocaine interdiction off Mexico as part of Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South.

Aspen‘s efforts resulted in the interdiction of a suspected smuggling vessel carrying more than 224 pounds of cocaine worth approximately $3.3 million and the apprehension of six suspected smugglers.

The interdiction occurred Oct. 10, after the Aspen deployed two 23-foot interceptor boats which made a three-hour pursuit to intercept a suspected smuggling vessel approximately 400 miles off the coast of Mexico.

Coast Guard members aboard two interceptor boats from the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, a 225-foot sea-going buoy tender, maneuver in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico during a counter-smuggling patrol, Oct. 13, 2017.

Also during the deployment, the Aspen conducted exercises with the Mexican and Canadian navies aimed to help strengthen international partnerships while degrading and disrupting transnational criminal organization networks. Not bad for a ship whose primary mission is aids to navigation.

From left to right are Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Nanaimo (MM702), a Kingston-class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel, Aspen and what looks to be a Holzinger-class patrol vessel of the Armada de México.

“This was a very successful deployment and I could not be more proud of the crew,” said Lt. Cmdr. Justin Vanden Heuvel, Aspen‘s commanding officer. “Utilizing a buoy tender as a platform to execute counter-narcotics missions shows the versatility and adaptability of the Coast Guard and the Aspen crew. Day in and day out the crew expertly conducts a wide variety of missions including search and rescue, aids to navigation, fisheries enforcement and in this case, the interdiction of illegal contraband destined for the United States.”

While built for tending navigational aids, 225’s have also proved useful in everything from salvage to sovereignty and fishery patrols, to ice operations (sistership USCGC Maple covered the Northwest Passage in 47 days this summer) and even carrying special operations detachments on training missions in the littoral.

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