By Cmdr. Scott A. Jones
Commanding Officer, USS Donald Cook (DDG 75)
For nearly five years, we’ve been talking about building the capability for the U.S. to defend Europe against ballistic missile threats, and as of yesterday, we’ve taken the next step. USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) is officially moored in Naval Station Rota, Spain, as the first of four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to be stationed in Rota under the European Phased Adaptive Approach.
Our arrival in Rota featured a welcome ceremony commemorating this historic day– but before I talk about that event and what lies ahead, let me highlight our transit across the Atlantic.
Despite the winter weather in Norfolk, Va. we were able to get underway on time Fri., Jan 31. It was a heartfelt moment for me and many of the crew – to say goodbye to a place we have called home for quite some time, with our families and friends on the pier waving us off, for good.
For a little over a week we journeyed across the Atlantic in typical Navy fashion: drills, drills and more drills – maintaining our proficiency to be ready to meet the challenges of today and the missions of tomorrow.
We also took advantage of the voyage to ensure we’d dotted all our Is and crossed all our Ts for our transition to Rota life. We were fortunate to have two representatives from Rota’s Fleet and Family Support Center and Morale, Welfare, Recreation center embark the ship to lead Inter-Cultural Relations training. They delivered information on everything from base services and space “A” travel to local hospitals and veterinary clinics, providing truly valuable insight and information to get the crew focused on life in Rota. We appreciate all the support we’ve received, and we are happy to now call ourselves members of the Rota Community.
Yesterday was a tremendous day for the entire crew, after more than a year of planning and preparation we finally arrived. Met by the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, and hosted by U.S. Ambassador James Costos and Adm. Bruce Clingan, the crew and I took part in an arrival ceremony that won’t soon be forgotten.
We heard remarks by the assembled dignitaries, emphasizing the importance of a forward deployed naval force (FDNF) operating out of Rota to support NATO and U.S. missions, exercises and engagements and to train with our allies all while providing a missile defense capability abroad.
Surrounded by the nautical tunes of both the U.S. and Spanish Navy bands, we celebrated with members of the Spanish Navy, U.S. Sailors, Airmen and Marines stationed in Rota, our families and numerous U.S. and Spanish Distinguished Visitors. It was an environment saturated with support for our continued partnership with Spain, and our European and NATO allies. It was a joyous celebration of new-beginnings forged out of a long history of mutual respect and trust.
So what’s next? We will begin the exciting challenge of obtaining critical “local knowledge” of the region – maximizing opportunities to train and operate with our allies – to become highly proficient at missions unique to the European theater of operations.
We will continue our contribution to regional maritime security, search and rescue activities, humanitarian missions, bi-lateral and multi-lateral training missions, and support of NATO operations and deployments.
We will do what we’ve always done – sharpen our skills on the full spectrum of naval operations: air and missile defense, strike, surface and anti-submarine warfare, maritime interdiction, counter-piracy and other presence operations. We will demonstrate that we are fully committed to being continuously present where it matters, in order to respond when it matters.
I know that the crew of Donald Cook is up for the mission ahead. We are excited and honored to be the first ship to take station as FDNF Rota, Spain. We have the watch.
Faith without Fear!