By MC2 Jessica Blackwell
Navy Public Affairs Support Element Det. Hawaii
USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) was awarded the Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation during a pierside ceremony, Oct. 13, for the ship’s assistance in a 2019 maritime interdiction operation in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations.
Capt. Alan B. McCabe, commanding officer, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Midgett (WMSL 757), presented the award to Cmdr. Scott P. Maloney, commanding officer, Michael Murphy, hailing “the seamless integration” between the Navy and Coast Guard (USCG) as the reason for the “smooth, safe, and successful interdiction” which led to the seizure of 990 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated 29.2 million U.S. dollars’ worth of cocaine.
In July 2019, Michael Murphy was on patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean when a MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter of the embarked air detachment “Easyriders” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 37, detected a low-profile vessel (LPV). The helicopter communicated back to Michael Murphy, relaying their finding. Maloney, who was Michael Murphy’s executive officer at the time, was notified and joined Command Master Chief Jose Ramiro to discuss the unfolding situation.
“I’ve been doing counter narcotics operations in South America since 1999, so with my experience I realized this was a vessel known for transporting drugs,” said Ramiro.
Surveillance of the vessel also showed the suspected narco-traffickers jettisoning objects overboard.
“In the 4th Fleet, we understand one of the existing dynamic problems is drug smuggling and moving it into the Americas,” said Senior Chief Fire Controlman Ryan Keola Patricio, a Hawaiian native assigned to Michael Murphy. “It has an impact on the country’s citizens, the country’s economy, and those who mean us and our people harm. This is supposed to sustain their way of life. So, for us to be a deterrent and show force peacefully, without any rounds fired, goes to show we are a very flexible and dynamic force, especially integrating with the U.S. coast guard.”
Ramiro said in the 24 hours preceding the interdiction, the ship accomplished a string of successful missions, including participation in the annual maritime exercises UNITAS LX and Teamwork South and rescuing mariners in distress.
“We engaged the fishing vessel and found out they were fishermen who had been lost at sea for days,” said Ramiro. “They were pretty much out of food and water and their boat was broken. We rescued them and turned them over to Ecuadorian Coast Guard so they could go home. A win-win situation.”
In the span of less than 48 hours, Michael Murphy Sailors had demonstrated both the readiness and resiliency of their team in several vastly different missions.
“It was a proud moment of my career on the Michael Murphy,” said Ramiro. “It actually shows how this command and its Sailors are battle ready and battle minded. We were able to suit up for an unplanned mission and stop them. That battle readiness mentality that we’re always talking about throughout the Navy was beautifully put together by Michael Murphy Sailors.”
Patricio said Michael Murphy Sailors put the mission first, no matter what.
“Our motto is Lead the Fight. All that we do plays into our motto,” said Patricio. “We are expected to lead so we continue to do so no matter what it is. That’s the pride that comes with the namesake of the ship and the culture of the command in trying to maintain a legacy, but also leave a legacy.”
Michael Murphy is homeported in Hawaii at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.