As part of U.S. Southern Command’s counter-drug operations surge, the Coast Guard national security cutter James headed to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific in late March, carrying the usual complement of supplies for a 90-day deployment, plus a boatload of face masks, latex gloves, sanitizer, trash bags and other germ-fighting necessities.
Crews that handle bales of cocaine and marijuana usually take precautions with contraband, wearing gloves and minimizing contact with suspect traffickers. But deployment during the COVID-19 pandemic requires protective measures and a decontamination process few could have imagined during the Charleston, South Carolina-based cutter’s pre-deployment workups, said Capt. Jeffrey Randall, the James’ commanding officer.
No cutter wants to be the Coast Guard’s version of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt or Diamond Princess cruise ship.