SAN DIEGO, Ca. – The Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigate, USS Curts (FFG 38) will return to San Diego from its final deployment to 4th Fleet supporting Operation Martillo and Counter Transnational Organized Crime (C-TOC) having seized $25 million in illicit drugs.
The frigate conducted interdiction operations resulting in the seizure and disruption of nearly 1,000 kilograms of illicit narcotics with an estimated street value of $25 million. Through tactical coordination with embarked Seahawk Helicopter Squadron Light 49 Detachment 5 and United States Coast Guard (USCG) Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team Detachment (LEDET), Curts had a direct impact on the drug flow in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The crew conducted a high profile media embark in which Honduran and El Salvadorian mainstream news media embarked the ship underway to produce feature stories of Curts’ role in Operation Martillo.
“The media embed and Theater Security Cooperation engagements that the ship and crew executed were fantastic opportunities for the Navy to deliver a message to other nations in this region that Operation Martillo is an effective means of disrupting the drug flow. It has been a privilege operating with the navies of our regional allies,” Cmdr. Joseph Pezzato, Executive Officer said.
Curts also participated in several Community Relations projects (COMREL) including upkeep of two elementary schools, C.B. Estado de Minesota and Escuela De Estados, in Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Panama. The ship’s crew volunteered to repair recreational facilities, refurbish damaged classroom desks, bathroom doors and air conditioning units. The ships’ crewmembers distributed pallets of Project Handclasp humanitarian supplies to the students and faculty of the schools, including mouthwash, band aids, disinfectant, cotton swabs, and a variety of other hygiene items.
“The work we have done here helps provide a safer and healthier learning environment for more than 1,000 students and teachers. The hospitality was extremely gracious and was not hampered by differences in language or culture,” Chief Petty Officer Norman Levasseur, said.
In Bahia Malaga, Colombia, the ship hosted a flight deck reception for the Colombian Navy which was attended by Vice Adm. Rodolfo Amaya Kergueler, Commander of the Colombian Pacific Fleet. Curts’ Sailors also had the opportunity to participate in athletic competitions including basketball, soccer, tug of war and volleyball during a sports day event. On the final night of the port visit, members of the ship were invited to a reception hosted by the Colombian Navy attended by Kerguelen, and Cmdr. Fermin Espinoza, Commanding Officer of the frigate and presented each other with plaques as tokens of partnership.
Curts’ final deployment included a burial at sea as well as Independence Day, Sept. 11th and Veteran’s Day ceremonies during the deployment. The last reception was conducted in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with the Mexican Secretary of the Navy along with other high ranking naval officers and dignitaries.
Curts will also embark family members in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the ship’s last Tiger Cruise before returning to homeport and decommissioning.
"It has been a great honor to participate in Opertation Martillo, which is important not only to regional security and stability, but to the safety and security of our own local communities,” Espinoza said.
“The last crew of 38 Special, stepped up to the plate in all assigned missions with tenacity and confidence and hit a homerun. I am proud to be the last commanding officer of this legendary battletested warship. I am confident in stating that as Curts prepares for her inactivation in February 2013, that she will leave the fleet the same way she entered the fleet…ready to fight,” he concluded.
A decommissioning ceremony will be held on Jan. 25 at Naval Base San Diego.
Operation Martillo (Spanish for “hammer”) is a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. Led by Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South, a component of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Operation Martillo is a component of the U.S. government’s coordinated regional security strategy in support of White House strategy to combat transitional organized crime and the U.S. and Central America Security Initiative. Fourteen countries are participating: Canada, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
JIATF South is a multiservice, multiagency, national task force which conducts counter-illicit trafficking operations and intelligence fusion to detect, monitor, and handoff suspected illicit trafficking targets to law enforcement activities; promotes security cooperation and coordinates country team and partner nation initiatives in order to defeat the flow of illicit traffic.