From USS Rentz Public Affairs
August 26, 2003, EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) - During a 72-hour period, USS Rentz (FFG 46) and its embarked helicopter and U.S. Coast Guard Detachment thwarted two drug-smuggling outfits in the Eastern Pacific, by intercepting one logistic support vessel and two high speed vessels, also known as go-fast vessels (GFV), specifically built for transport of narcotics.
In early August, as Rentz conducted counter-drug patrols, the ship's helicopter from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 45, sighted a Go-Fast boat departing a refueling rendezvous with a fishing vessel. The fishing vessel was serving as a Logistics Support Vessel (LSV).
"In the Eastern Pacific, fishing vessels are often used to refuel go-fast vessels. The long distance from Colombia to Mexico requires a minimum of three refuelings," explained the officer in charge of embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 104. "It's very rare to catch a go-fast vessel and an LSV engaged in the refueling process."
The crew of the GFV, realizing they had been spotted by the helo, prepared to scuttle the boat by dousing it with fuel, donning life vests and setting the vessel on fire before abandoning ship. Rentz crew recovered all five personnel from the GFV and attempted to extinguish the fire.
"The team made a heroic attempt to combat the fire, using all of the skills they've learned in training. It was impressive to watch them in action," said the Rescue and Assistance Team's Scene Leader, Hull Technician 1st Class Richard Iverson.
The ship's helicopter reported that the crew of the support vessel was also dumping fuel overboard and dousing their vessel in a possible attempt to scuttle itself. As the fire on the GFV grew out of control, Rentz broke off its firefighting efforts and maneuvered to intercept the LSV. Then, members of LEDET 104 embarked on Rentz boarded the fishing vessel. Once the LEDET was aboard the LSV, they took command of the vessel and proceeded back to the last known position of the burning GFV with Rentz. Rentz searched the debris field left by the GFV and was able to recover 37 kilograms of cocaine, as the crews of the GFV and the LSV were taken into custody.
Recalling the event, Electronic Warfare Specialist 3rd Class Brian Partridge was most impressed with the teamwork that was evident. "It's great to watch all of the coordination of the air assets and surface assets working simultaneously to 'take care of business,' putting out the fire, recovering the GFV crew, and tracking and boarding the LSV."
Rentz continued to patrol its assigned area, and 72 hours later, a Maritime Patrol Aircraft sighted another GFV. Rentz launched her helicopter to aid in tracking the small vessel. The GFV was lost on radar temporarily, but the airborne surveillance from a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft, provided the necessary information to keep track of the go-fast.
"Great coordination with the U.S. Navy P-3 Orion. We wouldn't have been able to find the GFV without their help. Great teamwork!", said HSL-45 pilot, Lt.j.g. Jeff Valdes.
Both aircraft were able to track the small craft until Rentz could reach their location. As Rentz closed the distance, the GFV crew made preparations to abandon their boat and set it on fire. Rentz quickly came alongside the GFV and used aqueous film forming foam to prevent the fuel from igniting. Rentz deployed her own small boat to recover the crew of the GFV. LEDET personnel boarded the GFV and began to examine the contents of the boat. Eighty-seven bales of cocaine, totaling almost two and a half tons were recovered from the go-fast vessel.
Outstanding teamwork, joint service coordination, and professionalism culminated in a very successful 72 hours for Rentz and the Coast Guard LEDET 104.