US Increases Presence at Rota Naval Base

The US is increasing its military presence in Europe by adding two more ballistic missile ships to its Rota Naval Base in Spain.

These are the first American ships home-ported here since Polaris-missile submarines left in the 1970s, U.S. base officials said.

Guarding Against Missile Attack, Pirates

Rota is key real estate, said Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dempsey led a USO troupe to the base and visited with sailors aboard the USS Donald K. Ross. Rota’s harbor is on the Atlantic side of the Strait of Gibraltar and the ships typically are considered U.S. 6th Fleet assets which travel the Mediterranean Sea. The forward-deployed U.S. ships guard against a ballistic missile attack on NATO allies from the Middle East.
Rota-ported U.S. ships and crews also participate in multinational exercises, said Navy Capt. Greg Pekari, the commander of Naval Station Rota.

He added:

They [also] are doing anti-piracy operations. They are doing whatever the U.S. and NATO need to do to protect and guard our allies.

Close to Libya, West Africa

U.S. ships based here have a proximity to hot spots like Libya and West Africa, officials said. They are also closer to the Black Sea that the USS Ross entered in September to reassure NATO allies in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its aggression in eastern Ukraine.

Pekari said:

There are still a lot of things happening here that requires our attention — Syria, ISIL, Ukraine.

We still have requirements around the world.

Officials said about 300 Air Force personnel work at Rota, handling maintenance on C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster 3 aircraft that use the base’s airport.

‘Gateway to the Mediterranean’

Officials said the addition of the ships means the base — billed as the Gateway to the Mediterranean — is growing. There are currently around 4,000 U.S. service members in more than 30 organizations and their families on base.
Each ship has about 300 sailors assigned, officials said. The number of family members that will arrive is around 400 per ship.

Pekari continued:

The expectation is we are going to increase by 2,500 to 3,000 Americans over the next couple of years.

Impacts Base Infrastructure

This is a major increase that will impact the base’s infrastructure, Pekari said, including schools, shopping, the base hospital, maintenance facilities, and contractor support. He said support from the Spanish admiral who manages the base has been first rate and cooperation throughout the Iberian Peninsula has been outstanding.

It will take a couple of years for the base population to build, the captain said, and this is giving U.S. and Spanish officials the opportunity to plan the expansion carefully.

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Press release, Image: US Navy

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