Petty Officer 2nd Class Jarret Rouseve, right, kisses girlfriend Karen Saybe goodbye as the destroyer Donald Cook leaves Naval Station Norfolk, Va., for Rota, Spain, on Friday. (AP)
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Ensign Mansfield Murph, right, waves goodbye to her family as the destroyer Donald Cook heads to Rota. (AP)
Official information on moves to Rota: navytimes.com/rota-move
The destroyer Donald Cook set sail from Norfolk, Va., for its new home port in Rota, Spain, on Friday, the first of four destroyers over the next two years to be forward-deployed to that nation.
Ross and Porter, out of Norfolk, and Carney, out of Mayport, Fla., will follow Cook as the first U.S. ships to be homeported at Naval Station Rota since 1979.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the Rota move in October 2011. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced the chosen ships in February 2012.
Basing ships in Rota will allow the Navy to provide more forward-based presence with fewer ships. Transit time from the U.S. to the operating area is eliminated, and the ships are able to respond quickly to a wide range of contingencies.
“Permanently forward-deploying four ships in Rota will enable us to be in the right place, not just at the right time, but all the time,” Mabus said of the move.
About 1,300 sailors and 2,100 family members will move 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.
Many active-duty sailors were thrilled with the chance to get orders to Spain, and Rota veterans told Navy Times of the excellent quality of life at the base.
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 toward Americans, especially in that part of Spain,” said 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.”
To help ease the transition for Europe-bound sailors, the Navy set up “Let’s Move to NAVSTA Rota, Spain,” an online tool with information on moving and housing; health care; morale, wellness and recreation programs; and other helpful links and contacts for the installation.
“While the site should be helpful to anyone transitioning there, it was developed to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for families and sailors aboard the four destroyers that will soon be forward-deployed to Rota,” Capt. Frank Dowd, Naval Surface Force Atlantic Forward Deployed Naval Force Rota project lead, said in a news release. “We worked closely with Rota leaders and service providers there in developing the site to ensure the information is not only accurate, but that it really addresses the topics these folks want and need to know about.”
When Navy Times spoke to sailors aboard Donald Cook in July about their impending deployment, the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Scott Jones, said “the biggest issue is the people, just getting folks to come forward with their personal challenges.”
Staff writer Christopher P. Cavas contributed to this report.