The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Wichita (LCS 13) returned to Mayport, Fla., July 8, following its successful maiden deployment to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations. Wichita, along with the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 8, deployed on Feb. 24, 2021 to conduct U.S. Southern Command and Joint Interagency Task Force South’s counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea. Throughout the deployment, Wichita partnered with other U.S. Navy warships, as well as numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, in the effort to combat transnational organized crime.
The Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, are all playing a role in counter-drug operations. During their deployment, Wichita, with their embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), assisted in disrupting an estimated 2,367 kilograms of cocaine worth over an estimated street value of $165 million and removed 26 suspected drug traffickers from the narcotics trade. Wichita conducted five bilateral maritime exercises with Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Dominican Republic to strengthen partnerships and build interoperability between forces.
I am incredibly proud of the Sailors on Wichita,” said Cmdr. Daniel Reiher, Wichita’s commanding officer. “The success of this deployment was driven by the incredible work ethic, professionalism, and resiliency of the Men and Women onboard. We are privileged to have the opportunity to take part in vital partner-building engagements with countries throughout the theater. These efforts will be echoed by those that follow in our wake, ensuring continued stability in these waters.”
Before departing the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations, Wichita participated in a training exercise with USS Sioux City (LCS 11) and USS Billings (LCS 15), marking the first time three Freedom-variant LCS ships have been deployed and operating together at the same time. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.