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Battaglia Visits Florida Coast Guard, MEP Units

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

The senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited U.S. Coast Guard and Military Entrance Processing units here yesterday.

Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia engaged with dozens of Coast Guardsmen at the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron here to get feedback about personnel and budget issues before touring the Jacksonville Military Entrance Processing Station.

“I’m pleased to be able to learn more not only about missions, but the people and families behind them,” Battaglia said. “We have people out here working hard every day behind the scenes making a difference not for a pat on the back but because they take pride in what they do.”

The sergeant major toured the HITRON hangar to see a 39-foot-long Midnight Express interceptor boat and armed MH-65 Dolphin helicopters that are deployed for drug interdiction and security duties.

HITRON’s counter-narcotics mission involves the appropriate force to interdict vessels and vector Over the Horizon Cutter Boats to the scene for apprehension, said Coast Guard Capt. Donna Cottrell, HITRON commanding officer.

“We can stop non-compliant vessels, narcotics, human trafficking and really anything,” Cottrell said. “We’ve disabled vessels that didn’t even have drugs on board, but had weapons and money, which is better since they’ve already sold the drugs. They’re headed back south but they can’t replace the money.”

In fiscal year 2013 HITRON was involved in 28 interdictions and the seizure of nearly 16 tons of cocaine totaling about $396 million, Cottrell said, adding they’ve also worked with law enforcement to apprehend 93 suspects.

Interdiction procedures and video evidence need to be flawless to make the cases and convictions, Cottrell said.

Across town, Battaglia later administered the ceremonial oath of enlistment to about 20 recruits at the Jacksonville MEPS, where more than 109,898 men and women from across the area began their military careers since the facility opened in 1966.

Battaglia offered the recruits some advice before they were sworn in.

“We will wear different cloths depending on the service you’ve selected, but on your quest to earn the title of soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman, just do your job to the best of your ability and follow orders,” the sergeant major said. “Those two golden rules will help you get through any challenge put before you.”

The Jacksonville MEPS is one of a network of 65 MEPS located nationwide and in Puerto Rico.

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleAFPS)