HITRON History: Rear Adm. Donna Cottrell

Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) operations started as an experiment in 1998 to halt the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. Drug trafficking organizations primarily used “go-fast” boats, high-speed smuggling vessels capable of traveling over twice the speed of Coast Guard cutters. The Coast Guard needed a way to counter the threat.

In late 1998, six Coast Guard pilots and four enlisted aircrew members developed tactics and procedures to use armed helicopters operating aboard Coast Guard cutters to answer the call.

HITRON helicopters operate in known smuggling vectors and rely on expertly trained aircrews and precision marksmen to disable go-fast drug smuggling vessels in the event suspects refuse to comply with verbal and visual warnings for law enforcement boardings under international maritime law.

In a documentary series, the Coast Guard tracks down the founding members, pioneers, and stakeholders who have played an important part in HITRON’s history. In this video, Rear Adm. Donna L. Cottrell, commander, U.S. Coast Guard 9th District, talks about her experience as the 6th commanding officer HITRON.

Video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Stanton

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