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Commissioner Kerlikowske's Remarks at CAMB Dedication of New Hangar in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

Release Date: 
June 22, 2016

Introduction

  • Thank you, Johnny – and good morning, everyone.
  • I’m delighted to be here in Aguadilla for the dedication of this new hangar.
  • I would like to thank Mayor Carlos Mendez for taking time out of his busy schedule to be here today for this important event and to highlight the tremendous partnership CBP has with Puerto Rico.
  • I also want to thank our Master of Ceremonies, Johnny Morales, Director of Air Operations for the Caribbean Air and Marine Branch and all the other AMO Directors in attendance today as well as General Alles who heads up CBP’s Air and Marine Operations.

AMO in the Caribbean

  • The Caribbean Air and Marine Branch (CAMB) – based here in Aguadilla { Ag – wah – DEE – ya } – is essential to the safety and security of the water and airspace in this region.
  • Air operations in Puerto Rico began in 1986 with a small cadre of dedicated individuals.
  • Flying a variety of “mongrel” aircraft, working out of second-hand trailers and an abandoned hangar, “The Flying Mofongo Brothers” (named for their favorite local dish) began targeting smugglers across the Caribbean.
  • Their success prompted Air and Marine Operations to expand the CAMB to a permanent base of operations, and is now the only federal law enforcement agency in the Caribbean basin equipped with integrated air and marine capabilities.
  • The CAMB also plays a pivotal role in supporting the White House’s strategy to confront drug trafficking in this region – the first Federal plan of its kind – which was published in January 2015.
  • AMO is also an integral part of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group, which unifies CBP, U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Rapid Action Forces (FURA, for its Spanish acronym) to carry out this mission.
  • These organizations work closely together, sharing the goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.
  • CBP is proud of the countless ways that AMO contributes to the safety and security of the Caribbean region, and we work closely with our partners.
  • Let me offer an example of this kind of collaboration.
  • : In January, AMO and Border Patrol agents worked with the Isabela Municipal Police to intercept 340 pounds of cocaine.
  • The drugs – worth an estimated $4.3 million –had been smuggled onto a nearby beach.
  • That’s a high-volume/high-value seizure.
  • But this kind of success plays out in smaller ways every day here in Puerto Rico and around the Caribbean basin.

CAMB Specifics

  • The CAMB is responsible for the detection, interdiction, and apprehension of criminals in the air and maritime environments.
  • The DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft and high-speed Midnight Express Interceptor vessel are both equipped with marine search radar.
  • These aid in the detection of maritime targets in the Caribbean.
  • UH-60M helicopters and Interceptors assigned to the CAMB are used in what Air and Marine personnel refer to as the “endgame,” or actual intercept, seizure, and apprehension of suspects.
  • Aircrews also operate AS350 A-Star helicopters in aerial patrol and surveillance missions.
  • They often do this in conjunction with ICE/HSI, Border Patrol, FBI, DEA, and numerous other federal, state, and local law enforcement entities.
  • In FY 2015, AMO’s Caribbean Air and Marine Branch crews flew over 2,000 hours and were underway for more than 3,000 hours.
  • Missions in the Caribbean basin resulted in the seizure of:
    • Over 30,00 pounds of cocaine;  
    • Nearly 7,500 pounds of marijuana;
    • … and the arrest or apprehension of 660 individuals.

New Hangar Facility

  • This new state-of-the-art hangar was built in the wake of the great achievements I’ve previously mentioned, and it would not have been accomplished without the exceptional CAMB leadership and personnel.
  • There are two components of the new facility: The 20,000 square foot Aircraft Storage Hangar, which:
    • Can accommodate 7 fully-fueled and ready-to-deploy aircraft, including two DASH-8 airplanes, three UH-60 Black Hawk , and two AS350 A-STAR helicopters;
    • An overhead crane;
    • A high-expansion foam fire suppression system;
    • Mechanical and electrical equipment to support Aviation Ground Equipment for rapid aircraft deployment; and
    • Is eco-friendly – it’s LEED Silver Certified.
  • Second is the 10,000 square foot Administrative Support Facility:
    • Accommodates 106 employees;
    • Storage space for ammunition and weapons;
    • Communications, training, conference, and muster rooms;
    • Fully-equipped Health and Wellness Center; and
    • Flight Planning Room.
  • These two new facilities will increase CAMB’s effectiveness, and enhance our ability to carry out the mission of safeguard the Caribbean.

Conclusion

  • I’d like to thank all of you for joining me here today.
  • CBP’s partnership with the Mayor, the Resident Commissioner, and the Governor have been invaluable in stopping drug trafficking and crime in Puerto Rico, and the region.
  • This facility will help us carry out that mission.Thank you.
Last modified: 
February 8, 2017