You are about to meet one of the most elite units in the United States Coast Guard. It is the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, (HITRON) based in Jacksonville, Florida. At the time that this video was made, HITRON was celebrating its 20th anniversary.
HITRON was established by the United States Coast Guard in 1999. And they have continued to excel in their ongoing efforts to stop the flow of illicit drugs into our country.
The USCG is rightly recognized for its exceptional skills in search and rescue operations on all of our coasts, our Great Lakes, and our rivers. No one does it better than the USCG. And they are much honored and respected by those who have needed their aid over the history of the Coast Guard’s existence. But this element of the Coast Guard, HITRON, may not be known by most Americans, and yet it is just as excellent and exceptional in what it does on behalf of saving lives and keeping our shores safe.
HITRON was developed in response to the drug cartels’ development of go-fast boats to smuggle almost unlimited drugs into the United States. Those go-fast boats were outpacing our cutters at that time and were very successful in bringing drugs into the U.S. This unit utilizes the speed and maneuverability of helicopters, the MH-68 Stingray in this case, to chase down and stop those go-fast vessels. The Coast Guard pilots who fly these are among the best in the military.
But HITRON also incorporates another necessary skill in this unit: snipers. These Coasties are just as skilled as the marksmen in any of our military services. They can lay a line of bullets fore and aft of a speeding drug boat, or, if need be, they can take out the engines of a go-fast boat moving at top speed over the waves, taking into consideration the forces of the helicopter’s speed and the wind’s effects, with a single armor-piercing 50-caliber round. No engine, no go! Works like a charm, as you will see in this video.
These HITRON Coasties are among the best at both of these skills. Listen to the now-retired first commander of the first HITRON unit, HITRON 10, describing the reasons for the unit’s existence and his pride in having been a part of establishing this unique unit. Then listen to the sniper who was the first to shoot out the engines of a go-fast boat describe what happened. He blew the minds of the smugglers. They had no idea of what had happened to them.
You will see some films of actual events from the point of view of the Hitron helicopters in this video as well, and you will get a sense of what their job looks like in real time and how difficult it can be.
We can be proud of all of our United States Coast Guardsmen and women. What these HITRON Coasties do to interdict the massive and often violent attempts of the drug cartels’ abilities to bring deadly drugs into our country is incredible. They are indeed saving lives and preventing an awful lot of potential violence on the oceans and seas, as well as in our own country. We cannot thank them enough for their dedication to duty, their willingness to serve, and the skills that they bring to bear on our behalf every day of the year.
Semper Paratus! And “Fair Winds and Following Seas” to all of our Coast Guardsmen and women.