We’ve Lost One of Our Own

121203-G-XX000-001_CPO Terrell Horne

Photo: Senior Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III climbs onto the ship after conducting water survival training in this undated photograph. Horne, a boatswain’s mate, was killed Dec. 2, 2012, from injuries sustained during law enforcement operations near Santa Cruz Island, Calif. U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Lt. Stewart Sibert. – See more at: http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2012/12/honoring-bmcs-terrell-horne-iii/#sthash.XSMyikVM.dpuf

Coast Guard Compass is reporting the death of BMC Terrell Horne III, 34, while engaged in a law enforcement operations near Santa Cruz Island in Southern California.

BMC Horne was in USCGC Halibut’s small boat when it was rammed by a panga.

The seizure of the panga was part of a larger operation also targeting a second boat and up to six individuals. There is more info on the operation here.

This is another unfortunate reminder of how vulnerable our small boats become when they are away from the protective presence of the larger cutter.

Makes me wonder. When the panga failed to slow and turned toward the RHIB, were warning shots fired? Were they authorized? Was deadly force authorized?

Update, the boat crew did open fire on the panga and maneuvered in an attempt to avoid the collision.

Update: The LA Times is reporting the two men on the panga were captured and charged under 18USC 1114 sections 2 and 3. My interpretation is, at this point, they have been charged with manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. http://documents.latimes.com/two-men-charged-killing-coast-guard-officer/

25 thoughts on “We’ve Lost One of Our Own

  1. Chuck, the LA Times posted the affidavit, recommend you link to it for ground truth from the CGIS investigator. They had 20 yards of reaction time and shots were fired in self defense (bullet holes reported in the bow and center console). They charged both with 18 USC 1114, I hope they pursue it in the first degree for the operator. For now we should focus on prayers for his family and not ask policy/tactics questions.


    • Piero, Thanks, I have added an update to the post with the link you provided.

      Certainly the blame for this tragedy rest on the two perpetrators, but we really expect no better from such men. The safety of our boarding crews is based on the Coast Guard creating circumstances where the criminals clearly understands that putting up a fight is a futile exercise. There may have been nothing we could have done differently to change the outcome, but I feel sure there is some soul searching going on, as there should be, not in terms of questioning what BMC Horne and his boat crew did, but in terms of the support they were given. Were adequate forces assigned? Would doctrinal changes such as a different approach to the suspect vessel have made a difference?

      I don’t expect to see the answers here, but I hope the questions are not forgotten and are adequately addressed.

      As we build ships’ boats with “over the horizon” capabilities, we will increasingly see situations where the larger cutter will not be able to provide support. We have to make sure the criminals see no prospect of successfully resisting these boat crews or we can expect to see more incidents like this one.

  2. The Coast Guard lost a very good CPO killed by two thugs at sea. It is too bad a more serious penalty can not be inflicted on them?

      • Personally, I’m harkening back to the age of sail when these two would have had a summary trial by the Captain and then either keel-hauled or hung from a yard-arm at dawn. These pieces of trash are unfairly benefitting from the high level of professional restraint showed by their captors.

        I did not know BMC Horne, but it is always bad to lose a Guardian. He sounds like a great guy and great family man who will be sorely missed. My prayers and sympathy for his family.

  3. IF there was time to use any weapon other then their sidearms, and
    IF more substantial weapons were onboard (SMG? for instance), and
    IF there was public disclosure that IF you try to ram a USCG vessel you will recieve deadly force.
    I bet many US policeman who are told its ok to shoot at driver/car if it tries to run you over are scratching their heads on this incident?

  4. I wonder what the RUF and EOF parameters the Coastguard was operating under in this instance given there has been no other incident like this in California waters in any recent memory. I have no experience in maritime boarding procedures but from my land lubbers experience, it seems to me that a small boat crew would not have a lot of options in stopping a boat like this that was being used as a weapon other than deadly force as the engine is to the rear and probably extremely difficult to target in pitching seas, at night. There is no other part of the boat that you could target that would slow it’s advance and small calibre hand guns, SMG or even medium machine guns are not going to have any effect on the boat at such short range with out lucky hits on the operator or engine. A very bad situation to be in.

  5. The SCAL OPAREA has changed, this area was populated with 87′ WPBs based on a different mission. These cutters aren’t designed to do this mission but are the best available. CG added SPCs to counter the increased trafficking threat and now traffickers are pushing north and offshore for transfers to counter the capability (open source reporting and CG press releases). The Island class cutters that used to patrol this area were shifted to absorb the PATFORSWA mission and backfilled with cutters like HALIBUT. I can only wonder if this situation would have been different if an FRC was in its place. They deploy larger and more capable pursuit boats where the boarding team is seated in a saddle-like seat with stirrups and lower back support with the rest of the crew aft and on the center line. It would have also been a certified pursuit boat. This would have meant a completely different mindset, tactics, qualifications, weapons, and protective equipment, e.g., pursuit crews are required to wear ballistic helmets during all tactical operations. I hope at a minimum we look hard at requiring ballistic helmets for all enforcement operations. The requirements have tightened over the last 4-5 years but there are some gaps where policy doesn’t require use. In this case, I don’t know what local unit policy was but there is ambiguity in CG policy which leaves command discretion outside of specific situations. This OPAREA feels much like the SW land border now and we should take a hard look at the right assets and tactics to counter the threat and protect our crews. I hope we send a strong message 1) by going after the operator for murder in the first and 2) come together as an inter-agency and aggressively dismantle the trafficking organization behind this run. Maybe its time to devote some major cutters with HITRON to deny them this corridor. The other option is to get off the fence regarding land based AUF and get AIRSTA San Diego certified for CD mission. If this capability was in place then they could have employed tactics and disabled the vessel, allowing HALIBUT to mop up. I did cutter testing of this capability back in 2009 and it has gone no where since. In fact, I was actually doing the testing in Smugglers Cove!

    • Since the incident when the Escanaba’s boat was fired on, (https://chuckhillscgblog.net/2010/09/28/smugglers-shooting-at-the-coast-guard-not-a-trend-we-want-to-encourage/) I have come to believe, if it is at all possible, we should always try to have two units present when a drug enforcement boarding is being conducted. If a larger cutter is not on scene, then there should be either a second boat or an armed helicopter in addition to the boat carrying the boarding party.

      I don’t want to suggest it is easy to take out one of our boats, but it might be tempting to try. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to disable and escape two units. It would also allow observation of both sides of a suspect vessel.

      Relative to land based AUF, when the CG was planning to do fast roping to the deck of a terrorist controlled vessel, (I never thought that was a good idea) was the helo supposed to have been un-armed?

    • @Piero Pecora , “The other option is to get off the fence regarding land based AUF and get AIRSTA San Diego certified for CD mission. If this capability was in place then they could have employed tactics and disabled the vessel, allowing HALIBUT to mop up. ”

      Aren’t all the helicopters supposed to be upgraded to AUF either now or very soon?

      “As of August 8, 2012, 31 of 42 MH-60Ts have been upgraded with new avionics suites and Airborne Use of Force capabilities. Thirty-one of 42 MH-60Ts also have been upgraded with enhanced electro-optic/infrared sensor systems.”


      If there had been an AUF helo watching the attempted boarding, this probably would not have happened.

      • Its not an equipment issue. The holdup is first policy, the program doesn’t have high level support to move forward in the CD mission for the 60s. The program does exist in the PWCS mission (directly against a small threat in a port and to cover insertion teams). The second hold up is all related to funding. HITRON (65 deployment squadron for cutter based AUF) is an expensive program with around a dozen aircraft and the associated budget to support it (pilots, crews, facilities, operating and support funds). Additionally it is a single mission unit, specifically dedicated to provide deployed aircraft for CD mission. The land based CD-AUF program is more complicated. In essence you would need to provide the additional airframes, personnel, and funding for flight hours at AIRSTAs San Diego and Clearwater. You couldn’t realistically expect the same Bravo airframe to support SAR and CD. This would require each AIRSTA to have a Bravo SAR bird and a Bravo LE bird therefore it means adding more than just 1 airframe per station. San Diego would need to double to six to have a dual Bravo standard. Clearwater may be more complicated because of their deployments to the Bahamas (assumption would be to add 4-5 airframes). The CG is already short a number of 60s due to the Tango conversion that is ongoing and unfortunate crashes in recent years. At a minimum this would require $70M to acquire the additional airframes. Those 7 airframes would require at least 35 more pilots which at $2.5M a piece to train requires $92M. Additionally, Clearwater and San Diego have ~1/2 first tour pilots in training mode (compared to places like Kodiak and HITRON which are all senior pilots). Your CD-AUF pilots would all need to be aircraft commanders. Also, you’d need more instructor pilots dedicated to training for the special mission and more dedicated training hours to train towards the mission. This would likely require more than 5 pilots per airframe to absorb all the trainees. The point is that the CG would need a big jump in pilots that represents an upfront cost as well a long term personnel increases. So in short its a $200M bill for start up costs (not including large facility increase costs). For argument sake lets just give it an even $250M (+facilities) over five years for this program to ramp up plus the increased operating, maintenance, and personnel expenses (pretty much a 100% increase to San Diego and 50% increase to Clearwater). If there was budget support to fund this new capability then I suspect that it would happen. In the absence of additional funding and in the reality of budget decreases I don’t think its ever going to happen. Its great to talk about capabilities but its expensive.

  6. I am curious if this event will lead to an expansion of the Cal Guard Counter Drug Task Force which operates very closely with DHS. It appears that the task force has been expanded recently with the addition of coast watchers and already does extensive LE support through out the state.

  7. A newspaper editorial on the extent of panga operations on the west coast.

    Clearly they have been talking to Customs and Border Protection. The article includes this statement, which may not be fair, but it is apparently the impression they have,

    “There’s no question that authorities are doing a great job in arresting smugglers once their panga boats approach land, thanks to smooth coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. But, it’s alarming to consider that traffickers are able to travel completely undetected while headed north.”

  8. Pingback: Call for Panga Task Force | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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