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Atlantic Ocean. (August 22, 2023): To most Americans, the Coast Guard is famous for dramatic rescues at sea but the service has another branch that is every bit as elite as any special forces in the U.S. military. Called Tactical Law Enforcement Teams or TACLETS, these highly specialized units conduct high-risk law enforcement and counter-narcotic operations at sea. In this photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mikaela McGee, a Tactical Law Enforcement Team conducts a mock boarding with active role-players from the crew of the BSAM Garonne, a French navy support vessel. The team practiced its boarding tactics while participating in Operation Nanook, an annual Canadian-led exercise to advance shared maritime objectives.

TACLET operators perform some of the most difficult, and dangerous, missions in the military. Besides interdicting drug smugglers, Coast Guard TACLETs are tasked with  preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. forces in foreign ports. The 1989 National Defense Authorization Act designated the Coast Guard as the lead agency for the detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime trafficking of illegal drugs into the United States. The act authorizes the Guard to interdict and apprehend suspected drug traffickers and makes ships available to carry out these responsibilities.

Today, there are TACLET personnel assigned to Navy vessels around the world to investigate suspicious contacts and to conduct boardings of “ships of opportunity” transiting areas frequently used by smugglers. Although famous for saving wayward skippers at sea, the Coast Guard is also the premier maritime law enforcement agency for the U.S. military.