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Sailors eager for a chance at Rota duty

Feb. 26, 2012 - 09:28AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 26, 2012 - 09:28AM  |  
The courtyard at Naval Hospital Rota, Spain, is reminiscent of a resort.
The courtyard at Naval Hospital Rota, Spain, is reminiscent of a resort. (Navy)
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Sailors are angling for a chance to go to Naval Station Rota, Spain, now that the Navy has named the four destroyers that will be homeported there in the coming years.

"HELLLL YEAHHHH," Damage Controlman 1st Class (SW) David Holcomb, a recruiter in St. Petersburg, Fla., wrote in a Facebook post. "I have been and lived in Rota ... can't wait to get orders to one of those ships."

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Feb. 16 that the Ross and Donald Cook will arrive in fiscal 2014, followed a year later by Porter and Carney. The first three are now homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., while Carney's home is Naval Station Mayport, Fla. The ships will be part of NATO's ballistic-missile-defense shield in Europe.

They will be the first Navy ships homeported at Rota since 1979, when the Simon Lake-class submarine tender Canopus left for good, said 6th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Marc Boyd.

About 1,300 sailors and 2,100 family members will transfer to Rota, according to Fleet Forces Command. They'll join the 1,300 sailors, 1,700 family members and 200 U.S. civilian workers already there.

The Navy plans to spend about $80 million to upgrade the installation and another $791 million for improvements and expenditures related to ship operations, maintenance, fly-away training teams, repair support, change-of-station orders and overseas cost-of-living and housing allowances over the next five years, according to Navy spokesman Lt. Paul Macapagal.

The Navy has asked for $18 million in fiscal 2013 to build a high-explosive magazine and general purpose warehouse, with spending in later years on information technology, family housing, base operating support and infrastructure sustainment. Plans are being developed for the modification of office and warehouse space, information networks and quality-of-life services, Boyd said.

Raves about Rota

The move to Rota http://www.navytimes.com/news/2011/10/navy-to-base-4-warships-in-spain-100511w/">was announced late last year by President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. But now, the Navy community knows which crews will enjoy the quality of life many active and retired sailors rave about.

"I was stationed in Rota from 1994 until 1998," wrote Senior Chief Aviation Electrician's Mate (AW) Phillip Burt, now senior enlisted leader for the Naval Academy's 16th Company. "It is still my favorite duty station. The quality of life there is second to none.

"When I first heard about us moving ships back there, I said, sign me up!"

Chief Air Traffic Controller (AW/SW) Russ Hedrick, stationed in Rota from 2005 to 2008, praised the "nice big commissary and great medical/dental" care, but went on at length about the benefits of living in Spain.

"The Spanish people are generally very friendly towards Americans, especially in that part of Spain," wrote Hedrick, now stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. "Some of my best memories in the Navy was having combined picnics/family fun days with the Spanish navy controllers."

Hedrick also touted travel opportunities. "You could go to Morocco and back in one day, via fast ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar," he wrote.

And then there's the food.

"The cuisines of Southern Spain and the Med are without equal," wrote Tom Clarke, a retired commander now working for Naval Sea Systems Command who said his Rota assignment was "probably the best in my 24-year career," with Keflavik, Iceland, a close second. "How many 5-year-olds like calamari? Mine was disappointed when she returned to the states and discovered that McDonald's didn't have them!"

There should be plenty of room for the new arrivals by the time Ross and Donald Cook make the move. Rota has 779 family housing units, only 350 of which are occupied, according to base spokesman Lt. j.g. Jason Fischer. The rest are undergoing renovation, he said.

Single sailors E-1 through E-4 must live on base unless rooms are not available. Nearly all of the 134 single-sailor units are currently occupied, but some of the renovations, which Fischer said will be completed before the four ships arrive, include conversion of existing spaces to bachelor quarters.

The four ships, all equipped with the multitracking Aegis radar/weapon system and ballistic-missile engagement capability, will complement a Turkey-based X-band radar station and land-based anti-missile systems set to be based in Poland and Romania.

It's unclear how many additional deployed ships might take part in that mission. Boyd said there would be "others" but declined to give a number, citing operational security considerations.

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