Jan. 15, 2018 — CARIBBEAN SEA (NNS) — U.S. Navy Lt. Ben Hondrum, a Personnel Exchange Program (PEP) officer assigned to Dutch naval warship HNLMS Zeeland, led two boarding teams during a drug interdiction Oct. 29.
The Zeeland had just begun their return transit to homeport in the Netherlands after five months when they received intelligence of a high speed “go fast” vessel departing Venezuela heading north.
The Zeeland altered course to intercept the vessel. While en route to the intercept point, Hondrum briefed the two boarding teams before loading the Fast Raiding Intercept Special Forces Craft (FRISC).
“I was excited for the opportunity to do what we had trained for in a real-world situation,” added Hondrum. “I was the boarding officer and am responsible for the safe navigation and execution of my teams in these situations, while en route to the intercept point; my teams and I went over the scenario and explored some ‘what-if’ situations in order to really prepare ourselves.”
After warning shots were not heeded, all three outboard motors of the “go fast vessel” were disabled, allowing the boarding teams to close in on its location and board the vessel. The boarding teams apprehended three suspects, found 15 packages of cocaine onboard and with the assistance of the helicopter, recovered 12 more that were jettisoned. A total of 1,300 kilograms of cocaine were seized with an estimated street value of $30 million USD.
The Zeeland sank the smuggler’s vessel since it was a hazard to navigation. The smugglers and the cocaine were turned over to the Dutch coast guard authorities in Willemstad, Curacao, Oct. 30.
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