US Space Force Has Fired Its First Shots of the Drug War
- US Space Force’s personnel found roughly 65 pounds of cocaine on a Florida beach in May.
- Packages like these are typically dumped overboard after accidents or attempts to evade authorities.
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Space Force is the newest US military branch, and it has now joined the US’s longest-running war.
The 45th Security Forces Squadron seized roughly 65 pounds of cocaine found on a beach at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on May 19.
The squadron is part of Space Launch Delta 45 based at Patrick Space Force Base on Florida’s Atlantic coast. The base was renamed after Space Force was formed; the new branch also renamed its units “deltas.”
A wildlife manager with the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron, another Space Launch Delta 45 unit, found one package of what appeared to be drugs while conducting a sea turtle nesting survey on the beach, Space Launch Delta 45 said in a release this month.
Twenty-four packages were found, and a narcotics agent from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office used a field test to confirm that they contained cocaine. The sheriff’s office estimated the total value at $1.2 million.
The cocaine was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations, part of the Homeland Security Department, which examined the drugs and packaging and conducted further tests.
HSI relayed the information to the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center. Such information is often applied to larger cases, like that of convicted Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Southeastern states were primary entry points for cocaine when use of the drug exploded in the US in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Law-enforcement pressure forced smugglers to shift to routes through the Pacific Ocean and across Mexico, which is still the primary smuggling corridor.
Caribbean smuggling routes remain active, however. Smugglers clandestinely bring loads ashore in and around Florida, often making short trips from the Bahamas or Puerto Rico to do so.
Packages like those found last month are typically dumped overboard as the result of accidents or attempts to evade authorities. (Florida-based service members have also been caught trying to smuggle drugs into the US.)
East Coast ports are also used for major drug loads hidden in legitimate shipments, such as the 16 tons of cocaine found on a Europe-bound cargo ship in Philadelphia in 2019.
The Coast Guard, closely supported by the Navy, is the primary agency tasked with intercepting drugs headed north from South America.
The Coast Guard frequently chases down vessels, such as rudimentary narco-subs, carrying multi-ton drug loads — a brand-new cutter seized 2,000 pounds of cocaine in the Caribbean in December 2020 while on its first cruise — but the service’s leaders say limited resources mean they can only stop a fraction of the drugs they detect.