The U.S. Coast Guard is a primary force for maritime security and enforcement. Coast Guard crews in Oregon are often deployed in missions working cooperatively with United States law enforcement and police from other countries.
The Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast and its crew is one part of that deployment. Steadfast returned to port in Astoria in June 2022 following a 55-day counter narcotics deployment to the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
During that mission, Steadfast crew worked with Mexican law enforcement assets on two occasions, to locate, track, and interdict fast-moving drug smuggling vessels, resulting in the seizure of 2,747 kilograms of cocaine by Mexican authorities, valued at $109 million.
The 210-foot medium endurance cutter and crew covered more than 11,000 miles conducting law enforcement and search-and-rescue operations in international waters off Central America from Mexico to Costa Rica.
The Steadfast deployed with an MH-65E Dolphin helicopter and aviation crew from Air Station Port Angeles, Washington, and with additional Coast Guard members from the Tactical Law Enforcement Team Pacific, Electronics Support Detachment Detroit, Base Galveston, and three Coast Guard Academy cadets.
While transiting south of Mexico, Steadfast’s bridge team sighted a disabled and adrift open-hull vessel with two Mexican adult males waving life jackets. Steadfast approached the vessel to investigate and determine the nature of distress. The imperiled mariners stated that they were fishermen who had been adrift for 23 days after their vessel had been beset by weather. Steadfast embarked both persons, provided meals and medical care, and returned them safely back to Mexico.
This was the last patrol for Cmdr. Craig Allen Jr., who has served as the Steadfast’s commanding officer since July 2020. A change-of-command ceremony is scheduled to take place on July 22 in front of the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
Steadfast is a 54-year-old Reliance Class cutter that has been homeported in Astoria since 1994. Previously, Steadfast was homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she earned the nickname “El Tiburon Blanco” (‘the White Shark’), from drug smugglers for her notoriety in counter-narcotics operations in the Florida Straits and Caribbean Sea.
The Steadfast also successfully completed another counter-narcotics patrol to the Eastern Pacific Ocean in the fall of 2021.
Steadfast traveled more than 10,000 miles while conducting law enforcement, search-and-rescue and marine life protection operations during the 2021 mission.
During their deployment, Steadfast crews boarded five suspected smuggling vessels, seizing 3,905 pounds of pure cocaine worth an estimated $67 million, and detaining eight suspected drug traffickers.
The crew offloaded the seized contraband Oct. 1 in San Diego.
The crew also responded to a search and rescue case, rescued a sea turtle entangled in an abandoned drift net and served as a training platform for tactical law enforcement units from Maritime Security Response Team-West.
Steadfast deployed with an MH-65 helicopter and aircrews from Air Station North Bend, Oregon; Air Station Port Angeles, Washington; and an aviation detachment from Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) from Jacksonville, Florida. The HITRON unit provided airborne use of force capability, which assisted in the interdiction of four go-fast vessels suspected of illegal narcotics smuggling. Additionally, Steadfast patrolled with a counter-narcotics subject matter expert from the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET).
“The crew put a phenomenal amount of work into readying the cutter for this deployment and sharpening the skillsets required for counter-narcotics operations,” Steadfast’s commanding officer Coast Guard Cmdr. Craig Allen said. “Their efforts paid dividends during the smooth execution of several challenging evolutions throughout the patrol. Our HITRON aircrew and TACLET member were an outstanding addition to the Steadfast team. I’m extremely proud of the crew’s accomplishments, and I’m also grateful to the Steadfast families who held down the homefront during a turbulent two months that included ongoing COVID-19 challenges and wildfires.”
To ensure the safety of Steadfast’s crew during the COVID-19 global pandemic, the crew conducted pre-deployment COVID-19 testing, followed by a 14-day monitoring period. Throughout their patrol, Steadfast’s crew maintained strict health precautions during all interactions with the public, including wearing N95 masks and undergoing intensive health screenings before each boarding.
Steadfast continued its tradition of supporting the Columbia River Maritime Museum’s Miniboat Program. The Miniboat Program connects students from local Oregon elementary schools with their peers across the Pacific Ocean in Japan. Students learn about the significance of ocean currents and weather while building miniature boats to send across the ocean to their partner schools.
During this patrol, Steadfast launched this year’s miniature boat “Goonies” (complete with a 3-D printed figurehead of the Goonies movie character Sloth) approximately 160 miles south of the Mexican Coast. Follow the journey of “Goonies” here: https://www.crmm.org/miniboat-program.html
Steadfast is a 52-year-old Reliance Class cutter and has been homeported in Astoria since 1994.