At the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif., Pence congratulated the crews of three Coast Guard cutters for confiscating the contraband from 14 suspected drug smuggling vessels intercepted off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South America between May and July.
“It’s an honor to be with all of you, to be able to say ‘welcome home’ after a three month deployment, where each one of you, every single day — as evidenced by the contraband that surrounds us on this deck and that will be offloaded here today — that you truly are gallantry in action,” he said during his speech.
The vice president said the operations led to the arrests of 55 alleged smugglers.
“That is a remarkable record of success,” he said, adding that since October 2016, the Coast Guard has seized more than 1.2 million pounds of cocaine.
He said for 2019, the Coast Guard has seized roughly $3.6 billion in illegal drugs and arrested 400 alleged smugglers.
“And make no mistake about it, Coasties: Your courageous service is saving American lives.”
To coincide with the drug offload, the U.S. Coast Guard released dramatic footage of a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro member boarding a submersible vessel that was being chased before bashing its hatch to open.
Men from within are briefly seen with their arms raised after the Cost Guardsman opens the hatch.
Over 16,000 pounds of cocaine were confiscated in the June 18 mission, the Coast Guard said.
“We disrupt the cocaine profits drug cartels use to diversify and fund other illicit activities like trafficking opioids and methamphetamines, and we do it at sea where they are most vulnerable,” the U.S. Coast Guard said on Facebook.
Pence echoed this sentiment during his speech, saying the proceeds from cocaine sales fuel opioid trafficking.
“These two issues are linked,” he said.
The visit was Pence’s first to San Diego County since taking office in January 2017, KUSI News reported.
On Friday, he was scheduled to visit the Donna immigration detention facility in McAllen, Texas, with Senate Judiciary Committee members.