Tue, May 27, 2003
The Commander of US Coast Guard Atlantic, Vice
Admiral James Hull, formally commissioned a new Helicopter
Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON), at a ceremony on Monday,
May 19, at the Cecil Commerce Center in Jacksonville, Florida. That
unit is now one of many elite Coast Guard elements charged with
protecting America's borders and waterways by using armed force
from helicopters. In fact, the Coast Guard HITRON squadron is
America’s first and only airborne law enforcement unit that
is trained and authorized to employ airborne use of force.
HITRON was initially given the mission of interdicting and
stopping drug-laden, high-speed vessels known as
“go-fasts” in the Caribbean, and more recently the
Eastern Pacific Ocean. The MH-68A helicopters employed by HITRON
are the newest helicopters in the U.S. Coast Guard inventory and
are capable of cruise speeds of up to 140 knots. The actions of the
men and women of HITRON have been instrumental in stopping over 25
tons of illegal drugs, worth over $1.5 billion dollars, from
reaching America’s neighborhoods.
Due to HITRON’s unique capabilities and training, the unit
was additionally tasked to develop Airborne Use of Force tactics to
counter possible terrorist threats to the United States.
“HITRON will be a highly effective tool available to the
leadership of the Homeland Security Department and the U.S. Coast
Guard in the continuing national effort to prevent illegal drugs
from entering the United States and to prevent terrorism in our
homeland,” said Capt. Walter Reger, Commanding Officer.
“The use of Coast Guard HITRON for armed patrols will
increase the level of security in our ports, provide an additional
layer of defense, ensure continued safe flow of commerce and deter
possible acts of terrorism in our nation’s key ports,”
said Secretary Ridge.
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