Joint Force Headquarters, Ind. --
The successful eradication of over 20,000 marijuana plants valuing over $47.5 million in nine operational days of concentrated effort by Indiana State Police, Indiana National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, and other State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies gives proof to law enforcement suspicion; drug trafficking organizations are using public lands and the Hoosier National Forest to grow and cultivate illegal drugs in Indiana.
Operation Hoosier Thunder was created to confirm or deny the presence of marijuana being grown and cultivated in Indiana for illegal sale in the United States.
"Operation Hoosier Thunder is a multi-agency marijuana eradication effort on Indiana public lands in Southern Indiana and the Hoosier National Forrest," said Sgt. Lou Perras, Indiana State Police. "Our goal is to protect Indiana lands from the devastation as the growers destroy property while taking as much marijuana off the streets as possible," said Perras. Through the combined efforts of multiple agencies and resource sharing, a large portion of southern Indiana was scoured by aircraft supported by mobile ground teams. Making daily discoveries of marijuana grow operations, the team's efforts lead to over 18 arrests, over 20,000 plants seized, and the discovery of multiple camp sites in public land which were associated with illegal marijuana cultivation.
The Indiana Counterdrug Task Force played a major part in coordinating, planning, equipping, training, and executing Operation Hoosier Thunder. "With their unique capabilities in aircraft and personnel they bring a lot to the table in helping law enforcement locate and destroy marijuana thereby taking drugs off the streets," Perras said. Their expertise and knowledge also provided detailed training to State and Federal Law Enforcement agents ranging from team movement, rappelling, amphibious and air operations, and critical medical training for every member involved in the operation.
The Indiana Counterdrug Task Force also contributed aviation assets which became a vital addition to the operation. The UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter's ability to loiter and transport law enforcement teams proved to be a valuable ingredient for overwhelming success. The aircraft allowed teams to quickly spot illegal marijuana grows, insert and investigate, eradicate the illegal plants, extract, and move onto the next site. In addition to the UH-60 aircraft the Army's OH-58 light utility aircraft were also used to assist in spotting and transporting eradication teams wherever needed. As part of its mission description, the OH-58 reconnaissance aircraft is well suited and equipped for the fight against drugs.
Operation Hoosier Thunder confirmed that drug trafficking organizations are in fact using public lands for illegal marijuana growing operations. This confirmation follows a national trend of illegal marijuana growing operations that are tended and guarded by criminals in state and national public lands. These plots not only destroy our lands as forests are cut down to plant their illegal crop, but also pose a danger to those that might be caught 'trespassing' in the criminals' crop. Often these criminals are armed and could pose a serious threat to someone stumbling into the wrong area.
The future of the Indiana State Police's marijuana eradication program will continue to have the support of the Indiana National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. "The months of planning with an emphasis on safety of our National Guardsmen and law enforcement agents certainly contributes to the successful execution of this historic operation," said Lt. Col. Terry Mullins Indiana Counterdrug Task Force commander. Together with other law enforcement agencies, the Indiana State Police and the Counterdrug Task Force will work to protect the citizens of Indiana and its public lands.