The Drug Buster could be a moniker for the San Diego-based frigate McClusky, which has nearly cornered the market among the gray hulled fleet over the years during deployments while cruising off the coasts of South and Central America. The ship’s crew is preparing to depart for yet another counter-drug deployment on Oct. 5, taking along some SH-60B Seahawk helicopters and a law enforcement team from the Coast Guard, who largely lead the take-down, chase-down, maritime interdiction missions at sea.
The “Mighty Mac” has collected its share of drug busts when it heads to sea on such deployments to support U.S. SouthCom’s Joint Interagency Task Force-South, the Key West, Fla.-based command that heads the military’s drug-busting arm for the past 20 years. During last year’s deployment, McClusky helped nab more than eight tons of cocaine headed to the United States. Just during a three-month deployment in 2007, the ship’s crew helped seized about 12 tons of cocaine, worth a reportedly $306 million.
In October 2005, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate hauled in about 5,800 pounds of cocaine aboard the fishing vessel Jose Antonio and helped, along with an embarked team of gun-toting Coast Guardsmen, to detain 16 suspected drug traffickers. Just weeks earlier, McClusky interdicted a high-speed boat and found it carried three and a half tons of cocaine, worth almost $100 million.
Since 2000, according to Navy officials, McClusky has made more than 20 drug seizures during deployments to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. Last year, it earned a prestigious honor – the U.S. Interdiction Coordinator Award – given by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for “superior operational expertise and outstanding teamwork.” The award noted 11 operations in the U.S. Southern Command region that collected $300 million worth of cocaine.
But going out to sea isn’t all about countering the drug trade. In 2004, McClusky’s crew helped save 169 Ecuadoran migrants stranded for two weeks on two boats and, in the summer of 2002, rescued a Los Angeles man adrift on his sailboat in the Pacific for nearly four months after his mast broken in half. The crew passed around the cap and gathered a collection, handing the mariner $800 to help him on his way.