These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels - We Are The Mighty
Asperiores odit

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels

Since June, Coast Guard vessels patrolling the US’s southern approaches have stopped seven low-profile smuggling vessels — stealthy ships that ride low in the water to spirit illicit cargos from South America to Mexico and the US.


Akin to self-propelled semi-submersibles used by smugglers for the same purpose, low-profile vessels are boats designed to run near or at surface level to present the smallest possible radar signature.

Low-profile vessels usually have a sharp bow to cut through the water and an elongated body to transport cargo — typically high-value drugs like cocaine. Some only have masts or conning towers that stick out above water, and they are often outfitted with multiple outboard engines and painted to blend in with the water.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
A Coast Guard Cutter Stratton boarding team seizes cocaine bales from a self-propelled semi-submersible. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone.

The Coast Guard said the last time a low-profile vessel was stopped prior to the current fiscal year was in late May 2016. Six narco subs were caught during that fiscal year (and one was intercepted in September, the first month of fiscal year 2017).

The seven interdictions since June occurred in drug-transit areas in the eastern Pacific, off the coasts of South and Central America.

In mid-August, Coast Guard cutter Steadfast intercepted a suspected low-profile vessel several hundred miles off the coast of Central America, seizing more than 6,000 pounds of cocaine and arresting four suspected traffickers.

Another low-profile vessel — six feet wide and 54 feet long — was stopped by Coast Guard cutter Waesche off the Central American coast in early June, after the cutter tracked the vessel for almost 100 miles. The Waesche’s crew arrested four suspected smugglers and seized 2.79 tons of cocaine.

 

 

The US and partner forces have stepped up their activity in the eastern Pacific, and cocaine production has risen considerably in Colombia, the world’s biggest producer of the drug.

The result has been “a significant increase in narcotics removal” in drug-transit areas off South and Central America, the Coast Guard said.

During fiscal year 2016, the Coast Guard set a record by seizing more than 443,000 pounds of cocaine bound for the US. The service says it is on pace for another record-setting amount of seizures this fiscal year, though officials have warned that it doesn’t have the resources to fully address the trafficking activity it detects.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Photo courtesy of US Coast Guard.

The ocean area from Colombia to the Galapagos and up to the Mexican and US coasts is about the size of the continental US, Vice Adm. Charles Ray, the Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for operations, said at a hearing earlier this month.

“On any given day, we’ll have between six to 10 Coast Guard cutters down here,” Ray added. “If you imagine placing that on [an area the size of] the United States … it’s a capacity challenge.”

US officials believe about 90% of the cocaine shipped to the US traverses the sea at some point, typically arriving somewhere in Central America or Mexico and being smuggled over the US-Mexico land border.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says about 93% of the cocaine sent to the US comes through the Mexico/Central America corridor.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Suspected trafficking routes detected during 2016. US Southern Command photo via Adam Isacson.

US anti-narcotics officials also think they intercept about one of every four tons of cocaine headed for the US, with about 69% of it stopped in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Narco subs — a category that includes fully submersible vessels, semi-submersible vessels, or towed containers — appeared in the 1990s, as Colombian smugglers sought to stay ahead of law-enforcement’s detection abilities.

Fully submersible and semi-submersible vessels are hard to detect and expensive to build (though their cargos are valuable enough that a single trip can cover the price), so interceptions of them are not that common.

Low-profile vessels, which are not technically semi-submersible, are the majority of seized drug-smuggling vessels, according to a 2014 report.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Coast Guard photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone.

Low-profile vessels can come in various forms, often balancing speed and stealth in different ways. A more recent variation appears to be what naval expert HI Sutton called “very slender vessels” — elongated vessels that go through waves rather than over them. In April, Guatemalan forces found an abandoned vessel that appeared to be a VSV, as did the crew of the Waesche in June.

VSVs sacrifice cargo size for stealthiness and speed, and their appearance suggests a maturation in the designs of Colombian traffickers — in particular Los Urabeños, the country’s most powerful criminal group — Sutton notes.

Narco subs are typically constructed near Colombia’s Pacific coast, assembled under cover of jungle canopy.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
US Coast Guard photo.

They’re moved through rivers and mangroves to the coast once completed, and their smuggling routes typically take them out into the Pacific — sometimes around the Galapagos Islands — before turning north.

“In recent years, ‘narco-sub’ vessels (mostly LPVs) have been built with upper lead shielding which helps to minimize their heat signature and hence they can evade infrared sensors,” according to a 2014 paper in Small Wars Journal. “Some of the newer models have piping along the bottom to allow the water to cool the exhaust as the ship moves, making it even less susceptible to infrared detection.”

In addition to the Coast Guard air and sea assets deployed to stop traffickers, US Customs and Border Patrol have eight P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft converted into Long Range Trackers. The former Navy aircraft have been upgraded with radars originally designed for the F-16 fighter jet, as well as optical sensors.

Asperiores odit

Snipers in Vietnam

Military snipers were trained sharpshooters assigned to kill a man with one perfect shot. These highly disciplined marksman often stalked a target for days waiting for just the right moment to squeeze the trigger. Lurking in the shadows alone, the deadly stealth of the sniper made him the most feared man on the battlefield. As a young hunter, Chuck Mawhinney grew up with a gun in his hand. In October 1967, Mawhinney was just 19 years old when he made his first kill as a scout sniper in Vietnam.

Asperiores odit

SOG Covert Task Force in Vietnam

Studies and Observations Group (SOG) was a highly classified, special ops unit that conducted unconventional warfare during the Vietnam War.  SOG carried out the capture of enemy prisoners, rescued downed pilots, and conducted rescue operations to retrieve prisoners of war throughout Southeast Asia. The Task Force also engaged in clandestine intelligence, propaganda and psychological operations.  J.D. Bath and Bill Deacy were members of this elite group.

Asperiores odit

This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans

As the Islamic State group loses its remaining strongholds in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is facing a growing chorus of questions from NATO allies and partners about what the next steps will be in the region to preserve peace and ensure the militants don’t rise again.


Heading into a week of meetings with Nordic countries and allies across Europe, Mattis must begin to articulate what has been a murky American policy on how the future of Syria unfolds.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Finland, Mattis said the main question from US allies is: what comes next? And he said the key is to get the peace process on track.

“We’re trying to get this into the diplomatic mode so we can get things sorted out,” said Mattis, who will meet with NATO defense ministers later this week. “and make certain (that) minorities — whoever they are — are not just subject to more of what we’ve seen” under Syrian President Bashar Assad until now.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Russia President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Syrian President Assad. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in late October repeated Washington’s call for Assad to surrender control, looking past recent battlefield gains by his Russian-backed forces to insist that “the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.”

Tillerson made the comments after meeting with the UN’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who later announced plans to resume UN-mediated peace talks Nov. 28. It will be the eighth such round under his mediation in Geneva since early 2016.

Related: How the US is caught between Turkey and the Kurds

Mattis said intelligence assessments two to three months ago made it clear that the Islamic State group was “going down.” He said information based on the number of IS individuals taken prisoner and the number of fighters who were getting wounded or were deserting the group made it clear that “the whole bottom was dropping out.”

But while he said the effort now is to get the diplomatic process shifted to Geneva and the United Nations, he offered few details that suggest the effort is moving forward.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.

In addition to the diplomatic efforts, Mattis said the US is still working to resolve conflicts with Russia in the increasingly crowded skies over the Iraq and Syria border, where a lot of the fighting has shifted.

On Nov. 3, Assad’s military announced the capture of the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zour, while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed victory in retaking the town of Qaim on the border, the militants’ last significant urban area in Iraq.

Focus has now turned to Boukamal, the last urban center for the militants in both Iraq and Syria where Syrian troops —backed by Russia and Iranian-supported militias — and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are vying for control of the strategic border town.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the city of Manbij in northern Syria. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Kurdishstruggle.

The proximity of forces in the area has raised concerns about potential clashes between them as they approach Boukamal from opposite sides of the Euphrates River, and now from across the border with Iraq.

Mattis said that as forces close in, the fighting is getting “much more complex,” and there is a lot of effort on settling air space issues with the Russians.

He also declined to say whether the US will begin to take back weapons provided to Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG. The US has argued that the YPG has been the most effective fighting group in the battle to oust IS from Raqqa, but Turkey opposed the arming effort because it believes the YPG is linked to a militant group in Turkey.

The US has pledged to carefully monitor the weapons, to insure that they don’t make their way to the hands of insurgents in Turkey, known as the PKK. The US also considers the PKK a terrorist organization, and has vowed it would never provide weapons to that group.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
A Kurdish YPG militant. The US has provided arms to this group, with a stated intent to recollect them. Photo from Kurdishstruggle Flickr

Turkish officials have said that Mattis reassured them by letter that arms given to the Syrian Kurds would be taken back and that the US would provide Turkey with a regular list of arms given to the fighters.

Also Read: 17 Brilliant Insights From Legendary Marine General James Mattis

While in Finland, Mattis will attend a meeting of a dozen northern European nations, which are primarily concerned about threats from Russia.

“They are focused on the north,” said Mattis, adding that he plans to listen to their thoughts on the region and determine how the US can help, including what types of training America could provide.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

“It is an opportunity to reiterate where we stand by our friends,” said Mattis, “if any nation, including Russia, seeks to undermine the rules of international order.”

During a press briefing later on Nov. 6, Denmark Defense Minister Claus Hjord Frederiksen told reporters that allies must continue to be present in the region because of the risk that IS would rise again.

“We’re not so naive that we think that terrorism is removed from this earth, but of course it is very important to have taken geographical areas from them so they can’t attack or rob or whatever — using the income from oil production to finance their activities,” said Frederiksen. “We foresee therefore years ahead we will have to secure that they cannot gain new ground there.”

Asperiores odit

Wild Weasels in Vietnam

The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface to air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.

Asperiores odit

Airborne Assault On D-Day

June 6th, 1944…D-Day. It was the greatest military assault ever staged. Code named Operation Overlord, the massive invasion of Normandy by the Allies involved more than a quarter of a million soldiers, sailors and airmen as well as 5000 ships and 3000 aircraft.  

Tom McCarthy and Francis Lamoureux were Parachute Infantrymen during the epic conflict. They tell their riveting first-hand accounts in this dramatic presentation, Airborne Assault on D-Day. 

Asperiores odit

Fighter Pilot of the Tuskegee Airmen

Colonel Charles Bussey courageously flew P-51 Mustangs as a fighter pilot in World War II.  His training came with the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the all black Army Air Corps unit. Bussey also went on to serve as a decorated Commander of Army engineers during the Korean War. Charles Bussey was a war hero, but his first struggle wasn’t in a combat zone overseas. His first battle was at home in what you might call the fight for the right to fight.  This is his dramatic story, in his own words.

Asperiores odit

Bat 21Rescue in Vietnam

On Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972, two EB-66 aircraft, call signs Bat 21 and Bat 22 were flying pathfinder escort for three B-52s, which were assigned to bomb the two primary access routes to the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos.  Gene Hambleton, a navigator aboard Bat 21, was shot down behind North Vietnamese lines. His rescue became known as the largest, longest, and most complex search-and-rescue operation during the entire Vietnam War.  In this episode, Gene Hambleton recounts his dramatic story, in his own words. 

Asperiores odit

U.S. Army Rangers On D-Day

This episode features the dramatic role of the U.S Rangers on D-Day during World War II.  Leonard Lomell and Sidney Salomon, from the 2nd Ranger Battalion, were among those who comprised America’s first Special Forces group.  They were part of the first wave landing on Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944.

Asperiores odit

4 keys to achieving your goals from history’s great minds

Every single one of us has potential, but sometimes we suck at life.

Have you ever set a goal for yourself and an hour later talked yourself out of it? Or, tried to break a bad habit and fell back into it after uttering the words, “I can’t”? Or, quietly gave up on a passion project because you weren’t disciplined enough to see it through?

At times, we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to achieving goals. It’s hardly ever a spouse, coach or boss standing in our way; typically it’s the person we face each day in the mirror.


Steven Pressfield has named this internal force that keeps us from reaching our full potential Resistance. He writes, “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

History is filled with individuals who overcame their own resistance to discover, to create, and to invent. Their examples can help us overcome our fight against resistance and achieve our goals, quit our bad habits and see our passion projects through to completion.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels

Hernan Cortes – Burn your ships

In 1519, Hernan Cortes led an expedition from Cuba to explore and secure the interior of Mexico for colonization. Once coming ashore, his men were divided on what to do next. Some wanted to return to Cuba; others wanted to move forward. Infighting broke out among the factions. He had to focus his men, so he destroyed his ships. Returning to Cuba was now out of the question, so they set their sights on their mission and went on to defeat the Aztecs and conquer Mexico.

Sometimes, to accomplish our goals we need to burn the ships and move out. We need to make a rash decision and force ourselves to live with the consequences. This could be done by closing a professional door, making that purchase we’ve been wrestling with, or signing up for the course we’ve been putting off.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels

Victor Hugo – Lock your clothes away

In late 1830, Victor Hugo had a problem. He promised his publisher a book by February, but he hadn’t even started it yet. So, he had his servant lock all of his formal clothes in a trunk, leaving him with nothing but his pajamas. It worked. In January he finished his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame ahead of schedule.

Hugo locked himself into what psychologists call a commitment device. This is a term used to describe the extra step we take to protect ourselves from breaking our commitment. Hugo couldn’t get his clothes back until he finished his manuscript. Other examples include deleting social media apps from our phone so we will be less likely to pick it up every five minutes. Or setting a punishment if you fail to complete your project; this could be giving away money or doing 1000 burpees if you don’t reach the milestones you’ve set for yourself.
These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels

Thomas Edison – Make an announcement

Thomas Edison was a great inventor. He received 1093 patents, more than any single person in U.S. history. But, he also recognized that he could procrastinate on projects. So, he would talk about how great his idea was to a journalist. In doing so, his ideas started generating publicity. Once people started talking about it, Edison had to complete it; otherwise he would be ridiculed.

When we put our pride or reputation on the line, we increase the stakes. By telling others what we want to set out to accomplish, we are more apt to follow through with our projects. We don’t want to show up empty-handed next time they ask us about it, so we increase our chances of following through with it.

Fight the resistance

The resistance is real, but it doesn’t have to stop us in our tracks. We don’t need to be paralyzed by inaction when it comes to goal accomplishment. Next time you feel resistance creeping up, burn the ships, lock away your clothes and tell someone about it. Don’t let yourself get in the way of greatness.

Asperiores odit

Going bald? Here are the 5 best military haircuts for you

As you progress in your military career, you find yourself struggling to maintain the era of your youth. The bones creak, the muscles ache, the skin sags and for some of us… the hair starts to go.

It is not easy going bald (trust me, I know) but for many men, it is a part of life that we have to come to terms with at some point… or maybe not.

For me, the loss was sudden. I joined the Marines late at the ripe old age of 24. At this point, I knew my hair was thinning, although it wasn’t that bad. I figured I had a good six years or so before it was gone and didn’t think much of it heading to boot camp. At boot camp, like everyone else, I had my head shaved every week.

But my journey at Parris Island took slightly longer than 13 weeks. I got dropped twice (once was because my arms got infected from so many sand flea bites). As soon as I got back into training, I got pneumonia in both lungs at the Crucible and was dropped again. By the time I graduated, I had been on the Island for five months. My last haircut was supposed to be the first “Marine” cut — when you get the high and tight and start looking like a Marine and not a recruit.

But for me, that didn’t quite work out. I sat in the chair and the barber buzzed the sides of my head, took a step back and started laughing. I was confused until I turned around. In the span of just five months, my hair … was… gone! Yup, it happened that fast.

Instead of a high and tight, I had what my Drill Instructors called a “low and loose,” two strips on either side of my head. It was embarrassing and I asked if I could just shave my head. I was told that because I was bald, I could… but only after I left the Island. (To this day, I am convinced that they made up the last part because they wanted to mess with me).

When my mom saw me, she asked if my haircut was some type of crazy hazing the military did.

Needless to say, the minute I left Parris Island, I “Bic’d” my head.

In the end, it worked out. While I didn’t have access to any hair loss products that worked, I learned rapidly that there was a benefit to being bald in the Marines.

Every Sunday, when all my buddies had to pull themselves out of bed and stumble into town to get haircuts, I slept in. While they waited in line for hours with everyone else, I went to the beach, downtown San Diego, bars and drove around enjoying my Sunday. On Monday morning, I grabbed my clippers, did a quick shave and headed to PT.

That being said, while hair loss is hair loss is preventable, there are options for when you lose your hair in the military. Some are good, some are… options.

Here are the 5 best haircuts you can get if you are going bald:

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Horseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, & LCpl Wilson sp… | FlickrHorseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, LCpl Wilson sp… | Flickr

1.  Horseshoe (and reverse shoe)

Other than the stripes on your collar, nothing says you are salty than breaking out the old horseshoe cut.

If you are suffering from male pattern baldness, this is the cut to go with (assuming it is allowed). Just shave the sides and allow the bald spot to turn into the “landing strip” that a B-52 can land on. The cut isn’t for everyone, but if you are a senior enlisted that has been around the block and is saltier than the Dead Sea, this is the cut for you.

If you are a boot, this is not the way to go.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Imitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | FlickrImitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | Flickr

2. Low and loose

Yup, you can have my travesty of a haircut and just go with it provided you aren’t actually bald yet like I was. For some of us, balding is just your hair slowly thinning away. While you can take steps to prevent baldness, you can also still rock your high and tight but with a little less on the top. The only issue you have to be aware of is the PONR (Point of No Return). If you have gone bald, there is a point where you just can’t fake the funk anymore. The low and loose works until you get to that point. Then you just have to move on.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels

Dvids

3. Low reg with a combover

The Recon or low reg works great if you are starting to thin from the front. What was usually the haircut of choice for the high-speed guys or the guys who couldn’t wait to get out, the low reg is your path to still having a great head of hair. Just grow it out and comb it forward. It’s easy, leaves you with a full head of hair (for now), and helps cover up the receding hairline. The only downside: You might incur the wrath of a First Sergeant or Sergeant Major who may not like the hippie-style haircut you are sporting.

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
Bruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | FlickrBruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | Flickr

4. Bruce Willis hold out

If you followed the career of Bruce Willis, you saw the gradual and dignified way he slowly went bald. No combover, no toupees, no hair plugs, no headbands (looking at you LeBron). He just slowly went bald and over the course of his career aged well. Now, the caveat to this is that he had a nice, even, slow receding hairline which for many of us, doesn’t happen. But if you are a John McClane type, you can just go gracefully without having to do much. But eventually Bruce had to resort to Plan B, which was…..

These narcos are going old school with their latest drug smuggling vessels
File:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia CommonsFile:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

5. Shave

Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Vin Diesel, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Gandhi, Common, Britney Spears (jk), and many others have shown us that bald is beautiful. Shaving your head is easy, saves you money, and might make you look more badass than you were before.

When I lost mine, I realized that I actually looked better bald than with hair. Luckily, I have a nice shaped head. If you don’t, then shaving might not be the best course of action and you need to find something else. But shaving your head saves you money on haircuts and shampoo, saves you time in the morning, makes you look hardcore and shows that you are ok with being who you are. If you got it, flaunt it.

Losing your hair isn’t easy regardless if you have time like Bruce Willis or lose it pretty fast like me. You can always find a great solution to hair loss like Xcellerate35, and you can also find confidence in rocking out a great style that makes you feel great both in and out of uniform.

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