Coast Guard teaches WHINSEC students about maritime drug interdiction

U.S. Coast GuardBy Maj. Charon Camarasa, Student, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation /

MIAMI, Fla. – International and U.S. students from the Army Command General Staff College at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Ga., visited the Coast Guard of District 7 in February to learn about maritime drug interdiction procedures.

U.S. Coast Guard Commander, Carlos Rodriguez, provided an overview of the U.S. Coast Guard mission and responsibilities of the District 7 Coast Guard home-based in Miami, Fla.

U.S. Coast Guard Commander Carlos Rodriguez, pictured left, explains to Jorge Ramirez, a Mexican Army officer, about the vessels used for counter drug patrols. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Charon Camarasa)

U.S. Coast Guard Commander Carlos Rodriguez, pictured left, explains to Jorge Ramirez, a Mexican Army officer, about the vessels used for counter drug patrols. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Charon Camarasa)

The district covers over 1.8 million square miles of coastline which includes 34 sovereign nations and territories, and is responsible for 10 statutory missions including drug interdiction. The Coast Guard is the nation’s first line of defense against drug smugglers.

The intelligence information gained on drug trafficking is important as each search has economic ramifications. Commercial businesses directly or indirectly involved with each respective vessel, rely on vessels to complete their journey and deliver cargo with minimal expense and time in transit. Most of cargo shipping delays cost money.

“There are secondary if not tertiary effects every time the Coast Guard is called to search a vessel,’’ said Rodriguez.

Different than other services, the U.S. Coast Guard has over 6,300 volunteers, known as auxiliaries, who serve in various capacities. Some become force multipliers by serving in recreational boating safety, operations and marine safety missions.

The visiting WHINSEC students were impressed with the unique services provided by the auxiliary volunteers.

Most the international students attending the year-long course at Fort Benning do not have a coast guard in their country, so receiving an overview from Coast Guard Commander Rodriguez was very enlightening.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Luis Rodriguez, pictured left, assigned to Coast Guard District 7 in Miami, Fla., speaks with U.S. Army Maj. Carlos Calderon, a student at the WHINSEC Command General Staff College in Fort Benning, Ga.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Luis Rodriguez, pictured left, assigned to Coast Guard District 7 in Miami, Fla., speaks with U.S. Army Maj. Carlos Calderon, a student at the WHINSEC Command General Staff College in Fort Benning, Ga.

“I like the conventions the U.S. Coast Guard has with all the countries to reduce drug trafficking,” said Colombian Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Martinez, a WHINSEC student. Martinez is a rotary-wing pilot and was handpicked by the Colombian Army Aviation Division to attend the WHINSEC course.

Mexican Army officer Jorge Ramirez was also impressed with the visit to the Coast Guard facility. Ramirez is an infantry officer who worked in the command staff section of Mexico’s National Defense Secretariat prior to attending the WHINSEC course.

“This visit was fruitful. It gave us the opportunity to learn how the U.S. Coast Guard operates, as well as their interaction and coordination with other countries throughout the continent, including Mexico,” said Ramirez. “Given that the gravity of narco-trafficking has had a deteriorating effect on the social and economic development of our countries, it is interesting to learn how the U.S., through the use of its Coast Guard, contributes to the day to day efforts to counter the flow of drug trafficking,” added Ramirez.

Ramirez was one of only three military officers in Mexico who were selected to attend the WHINSEC course.

At the end of the visit, Honduran Army Lt. Col. Walter Hernandez, an instructor at WHINSEC, presented a certificate of appreciation to Rodriguez for taking the time to speak to the WHINSEC students and briefing the group on how the U.S. Coast Guard operates.

WHINSEC invites officers from Latin America, handpicked by their respective countries, to attend the integrated year-long resident course. The course facilitates training alongside U.S. counterparts on military doctrine, history, human rights, and senior officer leadership development.

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