Red Crew : Fighting the War on Drugs with Reagan's Coast Guard Hardback
by Jim Howe
Red Crew is a first-hand account of Coast Guard anti-smuggling operations during the early years of the nation's war on drugs.
The narrator describes his experience as the Executive Officer - second in command - of a specialized drug-hunting crew that sailed in state-of-the-art ""surface effect ships,"" a small flotilla of high-speed, exotic vessels pressed into the drug war on short notice. In the early 1980s, South Florida and the Caribbean were awash in drugs, with hundreds of smuggling organizations bringing huge loads of marijuana, and later cocaine, into the United States.
To fight this epidemic, the Reagan administration led a massive effort to disrupt shore-side gangs while bolstering interdiction activity at sea.
Several large cutters were moved from northern homeports to Florida, older Navy ships were transferred to the Coast Guard, and three surface effect ships, which had been designed as oil rig supply boats, were purchased, converted, and commissioned into the Coast Guard fleet.
To increase the number of days at sea for each SES, a ""multi-crewing"" concept was employed, with four teams of sixteen sailors - the Red, Blue, Green and Gold Crews - rotating among the three hulls. Red Crew opens to a harrowing scene, with the SES crew fighting storm winds and massive waves in a desperate attempt to save a distressed vessel and its crew.
The narrator then flashes back to the early days of Red Crew, as sixteen strangers came together to form a closely-knit team, and follows their exploits on patrols throughout the Caribbean.
There are surprises around every corner, as the Red Crew seeks drug-packed hidden compartments aboard vessels large and small; chases ultra-fast speed boats through dangerous shallows; has a run-in with a heavily armed foreign gunboat; encounters grossly overloaded migrant vessels; and tries to keep their high-tech cutters - built to civilian standards and not suited for the rough-and-tumble of non-stop Coast Guard operations - fully in the game. Through its first-person narrative, Red Crew offers a rare glimpse into the day-to-day pressures, challenges, failures, and successes of Coast Guard cuttermen as they carried out complex and dangerous missions.
Red Crew provides a unique historical view of the early days in the Coast Guard's war on drugs, and is the only book-lengthhistory of the diminutive, one-of-a-kind surface effect ship fleet.
Packed with action and adventure, Red Crew shines a light on a unique and exciting chapter in the CoastGuard's vaunted service to America.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 320 pages
- Publisher: Naval Institute Press
- Publication Date: 30/05/2018
- Category: Memoirs
- ISBN: 9781682473016