The guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) will return to San Diego from its deployment to the 4th Fleet Area of Operations (AOR) on April 12.
Due to budget limitations imposed by sequestration, the Secretary of Defense decided on March 21 that Thach would return to homeport earlier than expected. Thach departed San Diego on deployment Jan. 8.
Thach's crew of 220 sailors and Coast Guardsmen performed counter-illicit trafficking operations designed to improve maritime stability within the region and protect free use of the sea lanes by thwarting the activities of drug traffickers and criminal organizations. The ship disrupted more than 379 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana totaling over $10 million.
"It's a bittersweet feeling to return home early from deployment," said Thach Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Hans E. Lynch. "Our counter-narcotics mission is valuable to the U.S. and our partner nations but I'm glad that we are all able to reunite with our loved ones back here in San Diego."
The ship also took part in a community relations project in Panama, helping to refurbish and deliver books to an elementary school as part of Project Handclasp.
The ship was an integral part of Operation Martillo (Spanish for "hammer"), a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation is being led by Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South, a component of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Operation Martillo is a component of the U.S. government's coordinated interagency regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transnational organized crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative.
The Operation Martillo team on Thach includes an interagency partnership with the ship's Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) team, U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Thach was also be supported by an embarked helicopter detachment, Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 49, Detachment 2 based at Naval Air Station North Island.
Thach will conduct operations and training within Third Fleet's 50-million square mile AOR.
Joint interagency and international relationships strengthen U.S. Third Fleet's ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.