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Coast Guard crew returns home with millions in seized cocaine

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Valiant crew returns to Mayport

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The United States Coast Guard Cutter Valiant crew returned home Tuesday after a successful 63-day patrol. The crew seized approximately $147 million worth of cocaine, assisted in removing an additional $170 million of contraband and apprehended 10 suspected drug traffickers.

The Valiant crew seized five vessels loaded with nearly five tons of cocaine. The crew also helped in the transfer ashore of an additional six tons of cocaine interdicted by other cutters on patrol in the heavily trafficked drug transit zone.

The commanding officer onboard the Valiant said the patrol was a success and will help bring stability to the Western Hemisphere.

“We are doing a lot more than keeping drugs from reaching our streets and poisoning our youth. By helping our neighbors to the south, we create a safer and more secure America,” said Cmdr. Timothy Cronin.

The cutter Valiant crew conducted other missions during the three-month patrol. The crew saved a baby and three adult olive ridley sea turtles in late April. The turtles were entangled in garbage and abandoned fishing gear.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Dillon Whitaker, who disentangled the baby turtle, said the mission highlighted one of the reasons he joined the Coast Guard.

"One day you're chasing drug traffickers, and the next day you get to save the life of a beautiful animal in the middle of the Pacific Ocean," said Whitaker.

Valiant crew members dedicated time to volunteer during the patrol. They worked with the Salvation Army orphanage in Tapachula, Mexico, where they painted rooms, cleaned up the area and played with local children. The time spent with the local community left a positive impression near the Mexico-Guatemala border.

This year marks the 50th year of service for the Valiant. The 210-foot vessel was launched in January 1967. 

The Valiant, along with 26 other medium endurance cutters, is slated for replacement by the offshore patrol cutter. The OPC will be geared with superior sensors, pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interoperability with other military and federal partners.