U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro
San Diego, California

12:23 P.M. PDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Vice Admiral Fagan.  Thank you for those stirring words.  Thank you for your outstanding leadership and your service to the nation.  Would you all join me in thanking Vice Admiral Fagan one more time — (applause) — for her outstanding leadership of the Pacific Fleet of the U.S. Coast Guard?

To Captain James Estramonte, thank you for the hospitality on this momentous occasion of this historic offload after the maiden voyage of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro.  It’s a great honor for me to be with you.

I’m also honored to be here with two great leaders in the fight against drug cartels and drug trafficking.  Join me in thanking Director Jim Carroll and Actor — Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon.  These are friends of mine, and they are in the fight against drug trafficking in this country.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

But most of all, it’s an honor to be with all of you, to be able to say “welcome home” after three months of 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.  Let’s hear it for the men and women of the United States Coast Guard Cutter Munro.  Job well done!  (Applause.)

Before I talk about the work that you’ve done, allow me to bring greetings from a great fan of the Coast Guard — someone who the Admiral and the Captain know has been a champion of the Guard, making sure that you have the resources and the support to do the mission that the American people cherish the Coast Guard to do every day: not only interdicting in drug trafficking, but saving lives on the high seas.

So allow me to bring greetings and gratitude from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

I came here today on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, and on behalf of the American people, to say thank you.  Thank you for a job well done, and welcome home.  You’ve been keeping watch, and you’ve been protecting American families on this mission.

You know, the President just said last week, in his words, “Coasties…secure our borders from drug runners and terrorists…[And] when the red racing stripes of a Coast Guard vessel break the horizon…those in distress know that help is on the way, and our enemies know their time has come.”  Thanks for proving that on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro, on your first mission.  (Applause.)

And let me commend you, especially, for your new deployment to the Eastern Pacific corridor.  I’m told that “East Pac” is the route for 80 percent of the cocaine that makes it to America, enslaving Americans through addiction, destroying families and communities, and claiming lives.

Even though this is a new area of deployment for this cutter, you’ve already proven yourselves more than up to the task.  Today’s offload totals more than 39,000 pounds of cocaine, 933 pounds of marijuana, and will lead to the prosecution of 55 alleged smugglers.  That is a remarkable record of success.

Fourteen operations went into this offload.  One of them was of a self-propelled, semi-submersible vessel, which resulted in the largest Coast Guard removal in four years.

The Coast Guard is seizing illegal drugs at a faster rate than ever before.  And you all have been at the tip of the spear, making that happen.

Since October 2016, the Coast Guard has actually seized more than 1.2 million pounds of cocaine.  And already this year, the Coast Guard has seized roughly $3.6 billion in illegal drugs and detained more than 400 alleged smugglers.

And make no mistake about it, Coasties: Your courageous service is saving American lives.  Give yourselves a round of applause.  (Applause.)  It’s true.  I mean, think about it: A pound of cocaine is enough for thousands of fatal doses.  And you’ve kept thousands of pounds of cocaine out of our communities, on this mission.

Your work is more important to our nation than ever before.  And as we heard moments ago, in the past decade, cocaine has claimed the lives of some 70,000 Americans — sons and daughters, moms and dads, neighbors and friends.  And while we’ve been reeling from the opioid crisis across this country, cocaine deaths doubled nationwide from 2013 to 2016.

And transnational criminal organizations are relentless in their efforts to bring cocaine across our borders.  Just last week, CBP made the largest cocaine seizure in the history of Customs and Border Protection.  They seized a ship that was found to have more than a billion dollars’ worth of cocaine on it — on just one ship.

And make no mistake about it: These two issues are linked.  The proceeds of cocaine sales are often used to fund opioid trafficking, as well.

And so I’m here today, on behalf of the President of the United States and all of the American people to pay a debt of gratitude and respect to each and every one of you and your families who supported you during this deployment.  Because this Cutter is full of patriots.  You’ve already served this nation with distinction.

You know, I was on my way here and I read up on the namesake of this ship — the only Coast Guardsman ever to receive Medal of Honor.

Munro is a legend not only in the Coast Guard, in our armed forces, but also in the Marine Corps.  And it was just a week ago, Admiral, that I heard the story for the first time — that his life was slipping away from mortal injuries that he suffered when that Coast Guardsman made it possible for Marines to exit the beach in 1943.  His last words were, “Did they get off?”

This is a proud ship with a proud tradition.  And the men and women standing before me today in this deployment have done the name Munro and U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro’s namesake proud.  Well done.  (Applause.)

And I know you’re men and women from every walk of life.  You volunteered to be in the Coast Guard.  You’re serving with great distinction — like a guy who has led hull and deck preservation for this cutter, I heard about.  At the same time, he’s also led the deck’s division small boat operations.  I’m told he led pursuits of smugglers up to 40 knots in speed, including one pursuit last month that led to the seizure of 4,000 pounds of contraband.

And I’d mention him today even if his birthday wasn’t tomorrow.  Would you all join me in recognizing and thank Petty Officer Derrick Jones?  Where are you?  Job well done, Derrick.  (Applause.)  Great job.  Great job.  And happy birthday.

Another Petty Officer who has served the Coast Guard for 16 years I’m told served on two other national security cutters.  And before they came to the Munro, he participated in operations that seized more than 34,000 pounds of contraband, Admiral.  I’m told that he is a true leader and also a proud son of California.  So let’s hear it for Petty Officer John D’Arcy.  Well done, John.  Thanks for a great career of service.  (Applause.)  We’re grateful for you.

The American people are grateful not just to these two, but each and every one of you.  It’s why I’m here.  It’s why you stood out here in the sun so long today — just so you’d hear it.  Hear it one more time.  And I want to promise you: You not only have the gratitude of the President and the American people, but I promise you, in President Donald Trump, you have a Commander-in-Chief who will always have your back.

And this President has made a priority from the first day of our administration to make sure the men and women of our armed forces have the resources and the support that you need — the best training and the best equipment in the history of warfare.

You know, I’m proud to say that in our first year in office, President Trump signed the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan, including the largest military pay raise in more than 10 years.  And you deserved every single penny.

He also signed into law more than $12 billion for the Coast Guard to rebuild aging ships and strengthen your vital assets.

As all of you know, when your vessels are operating beyond their planned service lives, it — it can jeopardize the mission, and more importantly, it can jeopardize your safety.  And we’re not going to have it.

And the truth is, recently, the mighty Cutter Bear — which I was on, Admiral, just a few months ago — was delayed in departing for a counter-narcotics patrol because of engineering problems.  But we’re setting all that right.

Our Coast Guard deserves better.  That’s why we are committed to fully funding our Coast Guard and replacing old ships with new ones, just like the U.S. Cutter Munro.  Get ready.  More help is on the way.  (Applause.)

This year we’re celebrating, also, 20 years of HITRON, which has been proven so instrumental in today’s offload and in so many other counterdrug efforts.  This administration understands how effective HITRON is for you.  And the President’s budget for next year, I’m proud to report, has proposed increasing HITRON deployment days by 25 percent.

We’ve made incredible progress in strengthening our military and giving all of you the resources to make the fight against the drug crisis over the last two and a half years.

But as you know, not all of the battle that we fight is on the seas.  You know, as my fellow Americans, that we have a crisis at our southern border.  But what you all understand, I’m certain — and I want to you know we understand: Every day that our southern border remains unsecured gives criminal syndicates and drug traffickers more opportunity to peddle their poison and spread the violence that’s cut short too many American lives.  That’s why we’re in this fight to end the crisis at our southern border.

And the truth is the men and women of the Coast Guard and the DEA know firsthand the transnational criminal organizations in Mexico and Central America — and the drug cartels that fuel their deadly trades — represent one of the greatest national security and public health threats to the American people.

These criminal organizations in Central America are also helping to fuel the crisis at our southern border by literally driving thousands of vulnerable families out of their homes to take the long and dangerous journey north.

But you in the Coast Guard are taking the fight to those criminal traffickers and attacking our border crisis at its root.

For four years in a row, the DEA has told us that Mexican drug cartels “remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them.”  And those are tough words.

The drugs that they bring across our border cost us lives and billions of dollars in healthcare expenses that result in crime in our streets and tear apart our communities.

Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for adults under 55 years of age.  In 2016, across America, some 174 people lost their lives to drug overdose every single day.  Don’t doubt for a second, as you embark on your next deployment, that the work you’re doing is more important now than ever before.  And what you seize and put on these decks to be offloaded has prevented from tearing apart communities and lives across America.

The truth is the illicit drug trade also fuels gang violence.  It provides funding for other crimes, like extortion and human trafficking.

And the challenges and threats that you face every day underscore why we remain so determined not just to give the Coast Guard the resources you need to accomplish your mission, but this President and this administration is determined and will not rest until we secure our southern border and we end the crisis at our southern border once and for all.

As the President said, it’s a “moral issue,” and we have a moral duty not just to secure our border but “to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens.”

We’ve got work to do.  But I promise, my fellow Americans gathered here, we will not rest or relent until we stop the flow of illegal drugs pouring into our country across that southern border.

That’s why this President declared a national emergency.  We’ve already begun to build the wall on the southern border.

That’s why this President reached a historic agreement with Mexico, securing the most significant commitments from the Mexican government in more than 20 years.

And that’s why the President negotiated a bipartisan bill just a few short weeks ago that’s now speeding $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid to support the compassionate work of Customs and Border Protection and Health and Human Services at our border.

I’ll be traveling there tomorrow.  I’ll be bringing a delegation of senators.  And we’ll be showing them and the American people, firsthand, that our system is overwhelmed, but the men and women of Customs and Border Protection are providing compassionate care to vulnerable families swept up in this crisis.

In the days ahead, I want you to be confident that just as you fight every day to keep our nation safe, this President and this administration will keep fighting for you.  We’re grateful for all you do.

The men and women of the Coast Guard are from the rest of us, but you’re the best of us.  You really are.  And on behalf of your Commander-in-Chief, allow me to admonish you: In these challenging times, for those who would do harm to our families, take to the Pacific, mind your mission.  On the next deployment, take care of your people, respect the chain of command, never doubt your calling, and never doubt your ability to do your duty.  You wouldn’t be here if you couldn’t.

And never doubt that your work is more important than ever before.  Rescuing Americans from the scourge of drug abuse and rescuing those in peril on the seas is an essential calling of the modern United States Coast Guard.

So stay on mission and know that, as your work is vital to the security of this nation, be semper paratus — be always ready.

I know the Commander-in-Chief and the American people can count on you just as we have on this last deployment.

And never doubt that you have the support of not only this President and his Vice President but of the American people.  You have their admiration.  And when the winds blow and the rains come down, the hurricane gale force strikes, the American people marvel at the Coast Guard.  And I expect when news of today is reported around the country of this incredible offload, they’ll be inspired again by your selflessness, your professionalism, and your patriotism.

And never doubt as you sail that you go with their support and ours, and you also go with the prayers of millions who I know will pray always, as they did on this last deployment, for your next.  That as you serve in this great Coast Guard, as you “rise on the wings of the dawn, if you settle on the far side of the sea,” that even there you would know that “His right hand will hold [you] fast.”  And that will be our prayer.

So thank you for the honor of addressing you today.  My heartfelt congratulations to the Captain and the outstanding crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro on a job well done.  Thank you for your service.  God bless you.  God bless the Coast Guard.  And God continue to bless the United States of America.  Thanks everybody.  (Applause.)

END

12:42 P.M. PDT