By Cmdr. Tadd Gorman
Commanding Officer, USS Ross (DDG 71)
Being the son of a Navy Sailor, I learned early in life that a ship is only fully operational when her Sailors are sharp and ready.
The crew of USS Ross (DDG 71) has been putting in long hours as we prepare to become a part of the U.S. Forward-Deployed Naval Force (FDNF) in Rota, Spain. Ross has undergone countless inspections and complex ballistic missile defense (BMD) upgrades to ensure we have the tools, the knowledge and the people required to complete all possible missions.
Now that we have transferred into an operational theater as part of 6th Fleet, our capabilities as a multi-mission warship may be tested at any moment. We may be called upon at any time. We will be ready.
Preparing for Rota
Ross prepared two ways for deployment: operationally and educationally.
For several years, the ship’s crew worked to make sure that we are able to perform our mission under any circumstance. We prepared for INSURV multiple times in Norfolk before finally having the opportunity to complete the process, which we passed with flying colors. Ross performed extraordinarily during our recent independent deployer certification exercise and successfully participated in the Joint Warrior exercise in April. During those exercises, we engaged in anti-submarine warfare missions, air and ballistic missile defense exercises, naval surface fire support at Cape Wrath, Scotland, electronic warfare exercises, and various simulated small boat attacks.
In addition to ensuring Ross could perform at peak efficiency, we also started preparing as a crew and as individuals to live in a new country and encounter a new culture. That’s where the education came in.
The Navy has provided a series of lessons and resources to help our Sailors understand the culture of Spain and prepare for life in Rota. This has included bringing aboard instructors from Navy Information Operations Command Maryland with region-specific expertise, and hosting Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota employees who have taught the crew. These classes have ranged from the broad – the importance of recognizing and appreciating cultural differences – to the extraordinarily specific – how to obtain a driver’s license in Rota. These educational opportunities have helped make the move and the lifestyle change as smooth as possible.
Operating Forward (with Help)
We are arriving in Rota with just weeks to settle in before we head out for our first patrol. There is a palpable level of excitement among the crew about the opportunity to live and work in a new country, particularly one with as rich a culture and history as Spain. But moving to a new port and a new country is not a simple endeavor. This whole process would have been far more challenging if not for the unfailing support of NAVSTA Rota.
NAVSTA Rota’s staff is tirelessly working to expand its services to meet the needs of the more than 1,200 Sailors and 1,600 family members expected to join the U.S. community in Rota by 2015. In addition to sending employees to Norfolk and Ross to help with advance preparation, NAVSTA Rota has also provided each family with a local sponsor family, offered an extensive host nation familiarization program, and is currently working with our Sailors to arrange local housing as quickly as possible. We owe NAVSTA Rota a debt of gratitude, and are happy to know that we are joining a supportive Navy family in Rota.
Expectations for the First Patrol
Everything Ross has done over the last few years is building up to our first patrol from Rota, where we will help show the American flag around the region.
Our strategic presence in Rota allows the Navy to maximize options across a broad range of missions in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Operating out of Rota is the most efficient way to support NATO and U.S. missions and priorities. Today, ballistic missile defense (BMD) is one of the premier missions for Navy guided-missile destroyers. Our Aegis BMD system provides scalability, flexibility and mobility for defense against known and emerging threats. Yet we will be called upon to do much more than missile defense during our time in Rota, including participating in the Standing NATO Maritime Groups, as well as joining in naval exercises, port visits and maritime security cooperation activities.
Our first patrol is an ideal opportunity for the crew to grow closer and more tight-knit. Though I previously served as the Ross executive officer, many of my shipmates joined Ross for the first time this year and may not know her full capabilities. They also don’t fully know each other. Morale is already high due to the opportunity to serve in a high-profile role and living in a country as rich in culture and history as Spain. But true, enduring morale that knits this crew together will only develop when we are forced to come together as a team to overcome our first major operational challenges on deployment. Given the environment we will be operating in, I foresee many challenges ahead.
No matter what challenges are thrown at Ross and her crew, we know what the Navy expects of us. We must constantly be at the highest state of readiness as we operate forward. We must pursue relentless excellence. And we must constantly strive to improve. If we maintain a steady course following those sailing directions, Ross will honorably serve her country.