SAN DIEGO - Guided-missile frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46) returned to San Diego from a seven-month deployment to the 4th Fleet Area of Operations (AOR), Feb. 28.
Deployed since July 25, 2013, the officers and crew of Rentz, in conjunction with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49 and U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachments, disrupted four shipments of cocaine, totaling nearly 2,000 kilograms, in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central and South America as part of Operation Martillo.
Launched in January 2012, Operation Martillo targets illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus, and is an international, interagency operation which includes the participation of 14 countries committed to a regional approach against transnational criminal organizations moving illicit cargo.
"The crew worked long and hard during Rentz' final deployment to the 4th Fleet in support of the U.S. Southern Command's Counter-Transnational Organized Crime Operations mission," said Cmdr. Lance C. Lantier, Rentz' commanding officer. "I could not be more pleased in terms of the crew's performance and the achievements made on our final mission as the sole U.S. Navy warship deployed in the region."
Rentz' interdictions were:
Aug. 10, 2013, A U.S. Navy aircraft spotted a suspicious fishing vessel approximately 260 miles north of the Galapagos Islands. Rentz intercepted the vessel and a U.S. Coast Guard LEDET 104 boarding team and Rentz crew members boarded the vessel and discovered some 963 kilograms of cocaine in the fish hold. The contraband was seized and four suspected smugglers were taken into custody.
Nov. 30, 2013, the Coast Guard Cutter Rush and LEDET 401 aboard the USS Rentz teamed up to seize some 460 kilograms and detain three suspected smugglers from a Costa Rican fishing boat approximately 50 miles South of Isla de Cohiba, Panama. The vessel had been spotted by a Navy aircraft. Cocaine was discovered hidden in fishing buoys on the boat.
Dec. 17, 2013, U.S. Coast Guard LEDET 401 aboard USS Rentz seized approximately 313 kilograms and detained three suspected smugglers from a fleeing Ecuadoran vessel some 240 miles northeast of the Galapagos Islands. The suspected smuggler's boat was stopped by airborne marksman shooting out their engines.
Jan. 20, 2014, U.S. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft spotted a suspicious vessel and coordinated with USS Rentz to intercept it. Coast Guard LEDET 406 aboard the USS RENTZ seized 243 kilograms and detained three suspects who stopped their boat after a Coast Guard marksman aboard one of the USS Rentz' helicopter fired warning shots.
"The reach and impact of our law enforcement teams is greatly expanded by our partnerships with the U.S. Navy, other agencies and nations in the region," said Rear Adm. Karl Schultz, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. "The cartels, or transnational criminal organizations behind this smuggling, are engaged in wide-ranging illegal activities, destabilize the regions in which they operate, and engage in brutal and ruthless violence to further their criminal activities. They threaten the security of our homeland and we need to aggressively thwart their smuggling operations. Every shipment stopped denies these criminal organizations the funds and resources they need to perpetuate their violent, destructive practices," he said.
Overall coordination of counter narcotics patrols and surveillance in the Eastern Pacific region is done by an interagency joint task force based in Florida. U.S. law enforcement and the interdiction phase of operations occur under the tactical control and authority of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda, Calif.
"The success of this deployment clearly stands out as a testament to the mindset that has driven this ship since 1984," said Lantier. "That is, we have always stood ready, put the mission first, and always got the job done."
During their deployment Rentz also transited through the Panama Canal for a port visit to Cartagena, Colombia and to participate in the multinational exercise UNITAS 54-13 from Sept. 7-15, 2013. UNITAS, Latin for "unity," is a combined South American and U.S. sponsored annual exercise series that incorporates several North and South American nations and fosters friendly, mutual cooperation and understanding between participating navies.