Viewed from a long-term perspective, counterdrug operations—such as the recent counterdrug deployment of the Thomas S. Gates (CG-51)—are good for the country, the Navy, and the ship.
Surface warfare officers will tell you counterdrug operations "ain't where the action is." Given the publicity about and activity in the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Fleet theaters, it is understandable sea warriors would rather deploy to those regions. But having deployed to all those areas, and having conducted a productive and fun counterdrug deployment on board the Thomas S. Gates, I can tell you the perception of counterdrug deployments as uneventful or irrelevant is both incorrect and myopic.
National and Navy Advantages
A counterdrug deployment provides definitive national gains. Successful drug hunting will, at some level, impede the movement of this destructive influence into our country. And because of the location of the most frequent sources of drugs, a counterdrug deployment facilitates engagement with our oft-overlooked South American neighbors. These young democracies are nations we need as friends.