LOS ANGELES — A new Coast Guard cutter commissioned Friday honors a chief petty officer who was killed in a confrontation with suspected smugglers off Southern California.
"The crew and I did not have to look any further than the cutter's stern for guidance or inspiration in our efforts to contribute to the successes of the world's best coast guard," said Lt. John Beal, the cutter's first commander.
“Senior Chief Horne, whose name is on the transom, represented the very best of our nation’s military servicemen and -women.”
Horne was killed in December 2012 as crewmembers from the Marina del Rey-based cutter Halibut were maneuvering an inflatable boat near Santa Cruz Island to intercept a panga, a type of boat favored by smugglers trying to bring contraband and people north from Mexico.
As the panga moved to ram the inflatable boat, Horne pushed another crew member out of the way, then was hurled overboard by the impact and suffered fatal head injuries.
The panga captain, Jose Mejia-Leyva, was convicted of murder and assaults on four federal officers. A federal judge sentenced him to life in prison. Another man from the panga received a 10-year sentence.
Adm. Karl Schultz praised his Coasties for doing more with less.
The commissioning ceremony drew Adm. Karl Schultz, who is commandant of the Coast Guard, other service leaders and members of Horne’s extended family.
The vessel is the third of four new Fast Response Cutters to be based in Los Angeles for service in the 11th Coast Guard District, which includes all of California and international waters off Mexico and Central America, where interceptions routinely haul in huge loads of illicit drugs.
The cutters, part of efforts to modernize the Coast Guard fleet, have advanced systems and can reach speeds of 28 knots (32 mph or 52 kph).
Each ship has a crew of 24, a range of 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) and is capable of patrols lasting up to five days.