ALAMEDA (KPIX 5) – A U.S. Coast Guard crew returned to Alameda on Sunday after making a major drug bust in the waters off Central America.
The Coast Guard cutter Waesche returned to Alameda after 97 days at sea. That's not the longest deployment by military standards, but for the families left behind it felt like an eternity.
"He deployed, he left and, you know, the dryer broke and then the sprinklers became possessed," said Jennifer Passarelli, the wife of the ship's commanding officer.
"The toughest part is dealing with the loneliness," said Laronda Evans, "and parenting by yourself."
The Waesche was in the waters off Central America looking for illegal drug smuggling, when it spotted a tiny conning tower sticking up out of the water. It turned out to be a kind of submersible cargo ship that has become popular with drug cartels.
"We were able to track them, find them, and then covertly get people on the decks," said Capt. Jim Passarelli, the Waeshe's commanding officer. "And by the time they knew we were there we had the hatch open and were pulling them out."
They arrested five smugglers and then, a staggering find: nearly 15,000 pounds of cocaine.
The Waeshe's crew was able to capture the record haul intact even though the smugglers were desperately trying to sink the sub when they were caught.
"If they can, in one haul, get 15,000 pounds of cocaine…that's well over $250 million. So, it's worth it to the organizations to build them and sacrifice them," Capt. Passarelli told KPIX 5.
So, even by Coast Guard standards, these guys scored big, making Sunday's homecoming even sweeter and the returning heroes just a little bit prouder.
The Waeshe's find was part of a record year for the Coast Guard's anti-drug efforts. The agency seized more than 400,000 pounds of cocaine in 2016, worth more than $5.5 billion.
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