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Press Release | March 4, 2024

US Coast Guard rescues 2, assists in interdicting 1,200 pounds of cocaine during Caribbean deployment

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant (WMEC 617) returned home to Cape Canaveral, Sunday, following a 60-day patrol in the Central and Eastern Caribbean. 

Deploying in support of Joint Interagency Task Force-South, Vigilant worked alongside other Coast Guard cutters, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security units, and international partners to conduct maritime safety and security missions. Vigilant deterred illegal drug smuggling and directly contributed to U.S. Coast Guard and national objectives to combat transnational criminal organizations. 

During the patrol, Vigilant’s crew responded to a distress signal from a French-flagged sailing vessel. The signal came from two French crew members who were stranded at sea for over eight days with no means of propulsion and no remaining drinking water. Vigilant was first on scene and provided them with water, shelter, and medical aid until their safe return home was coordinated. 

Additionally, Vigilant assisted USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) in stopping a drug trafficking venture, detaining six suspected drug traffickers, and interdicting 1,200 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $15.7 million. 

In addition, Vigilant conducted a professional exchange with officials in St. Lucia as well as St. Kitts and Nevis. Vigilant worked to promote regional stability, security and strengthen partnerships. Members of the crew also conducted a community relations project in Basseterre, St. Kitts, where they joined members of the St. Kitts and Nevis Defence Force to paint two classrooms at a local school.  

“As always, I couldn’t be prouder of our crew and our continued heritage of service,” said Cmdr. Jon Potterton, the commanding officer of Vigilant. “We enjoyed a great patrol where we were able to save lives and gain a greater appreciation for our Eastern Caribbean partner nation’s cultures and strengthen bonds through training and volunteerism.” 

Vigilant is a 210-foot Reliance-class medium endurance cutter. The cutter’s primary missions are counter drug operations, migrant interdiction, enforcement of federal fishery laws and search and rescue in support of U.S. Coast Guard operations. The medium endurance cutter is under the command of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. Based in Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area oversees all Coast Guard operations east of the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf. In addition to surge operations, Atlantic Area also allocates ships to deploy to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific to combat transnational organized crime and illicit maritime activity. 

For information on how to join the U.S. Coast Guard, visit to learn more about active duty and reserve, officer and enlisted opportunities. Information on how to apply to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy can be found here.