Vice President Mike Pence visited Coast Guard members in San Diego on Thursday as they unloaded 39,000 pounds of cocaine and more than 900 pounds of marijuana seized during a large-scale operation targeting drug smugglers in the Eastern Pacific Ocean over recent months, military officials said.
The drugs were taken from boats, and in one case even a semi-submersible craft, authorities said.
"The drugs represent 14 separate suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions and disruptions off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America by three Coast Guard cutters between May and July 2019," the Coast Guard said in a written statement.
The crew of one of the three involved ships, the Coast Guard Cutter Munro, unloaded the nearly 20 tons of illicit cargo on Thursday at the Naval Air Station North Island in the San Diego Bay. The cutter is based out of Alameda.
Pence conveyed the President's "greetings and gratitude." to the service members.
"I came here on behalf of your Commander in Chief and on behalf of the American people to say thank you. Thank you for a job well done and welcome home," Pence said. "You've been keeping the watch and you've been protecting American families on this mission."
In one raid on June 19, crew boarded a semi-submersible craft and seized 16,000 pounds of cocaine, officials said. Video footage of the "harrowing interdiction" has been released by the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard has increased its presence in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Basin, "which are known drug transit zones," as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy, according to the USCG statement.
"The Coast Guard is seizing illegal drugs at a faster rate than ever before, and you all have been at the tip of the spear making that happen," Pence said.