Military Life

This is how Coast Guardsmen mark victories over smugglers

Fighter pilots and naval crews paint crossed-out insignias of the enemies they've defeated on their vessels. Turns out, the Coast Guard does the same, but their enemies are often drug lords.


Coast Guard cutters typically mark their hulls with a crossed-out marijuana leaf for every marijuana bust and a crossed-out snowflake for each cocaine bust. We've also seen crossed-out droplets for heroin busts and crossed-out lab equipment for crystal meth, but they're less common.

There's also a ceremony to commend Coast Guardsmen for a job well done. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sabrina Laberdesque)

Drug busts are extremely dangerous and are often met with enemy fire and high speed pursuits at all hours of the day. In Aug. 2017, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Stratton made 25 separate seizures. The combined 50,000 pounds of cocaine and heroin they confiscated was worth an estimated $679.3 million. Their largest bust, valued at over $1 billion, was made back in Aug. 2015 and, just as recent as last week, they seized more than $721 million worth of cocaine.

"The seizure of this cocaine means tens of thousands of pounds won't make it to our communities and hundreds of millions of dollars won't make it into cartel coffers," acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson said in an official statement. "To drug traffickers who may think they are invisible in the middle of what seems to be a vast, empty ocean: You are not alone."

In case you ever wondered what $1 billion of cocaine looked like. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Bryan Goff)

Each decal that's placed on the hull of a USCG Cutter serves as a warning to every drug smuggler. But funnily enough, only one decal is awarded per bust. Whether the bust stops $1 billion or $20 billion from going into cartel hands, it still only counts as one decal.

Keep up the good work, Coasties! Amazing stories like these are how you guys earned your spot in the U.S. Armed Forces. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)