LT DIXON Welcome to the 15th episode of “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters.” In this episode, you will hear some background noise that you may not be used to and that is because we are recording from the wardroom of USS Donald Cook here in Rota, Spain.
During our conversation today, we will discuss naval activities in the European theater, and the importance of Naval Station Rota. Lastly, Admiral Foggo brought guest to the show, Commander Kelley Jones, the commanding officer of USS Donald Cook to discuss her background, the importance of forward deployed naval ships to Europe, and much more.
ADM. FOGGO: Where did you go to high school?
CDR. JONES: Sir, I went to Hayfield Secondary High School, right off of Telegraph Road. So from 7th through 12th grade.
ADM. FOGGO: Yeah.
CDR. JONES: Yes, sir.
ADM. FOGGO: Guess what? I went there, too.
CDR. JONES: No way!
LT DIXON Admiral, it's good to be here with you in Spain for our first episode of 2020, with a guest to discuss the importance of our forward-deployed Navy, and our strong relationship with Spain.
ADM. FOGGO: Hey, thanks, Lieutenant Dixon. Great to see you again, and it's a real pleasure to welcome Commander Kelley Jones, commanding officer of the USS Donald Cook, to our podcast today.
Donald Cook is one of the finest destroyers in the fleet, and a member of America's away team, right here in Rota, Spain. I'm looking forward to our discussion, especially as we record our first podcast on the road. Another first for you, Lieutenant Dixon. And I couldn't think of a better place than Rota aboard USS Donald Cook.
LT. DIXON: And, Admiral, before we begin, what brings you to Rota, Spain?
ADM. FOGGO: Lieutenant Dixon, we're hosting the European Command Triple C, which is the combined commanders' conference. Typically, we do these in Stuttgart, in Germany, but General Tod Wolters, the commander, asked us to host the conference in the different components' headquarters and bases throughout the region of Europe.
So we thought Rota would be a perfect place to showcase the great Navy capabilities in our theater to EUCOM's senior leaders. And that's Air Force, Army, Marines and of course the Navy.
Now, this conference is important to sync leadership on important issues, as we discuss the challenges and opportunities we face and look at ways that we can support each other and to support out NATO allies and partners with collective defense.
So it's the synergy of effects that we're trying to bring together here by hosting the Triple C in Rota, and that's really important. It allows the other service leaders who rank anywhere from one-star, two-star, three-star and four-star to see, firsthand, the premier naval capability that we bring to the table.
And as such, we have the command-and-control ship USS Mount Whitney here. It's our flagship, it's also a very secure ship and we've had some very secure high-level discussions on that ship yesterday, and we will resume today.
USS Porter, one of our forward-deployed naval forces destroyers is here. The fast attack submarine USS Washington actually is here, that's significant. And we brought Washington in almost at the end of her patrol before she heads back with malice aforethought.
We also have a P-8 marine patrol aircraft here, multi-mission anti-submarine warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. We've got seven of those aircraft, and we're flying the wings off them because that mission is essential to both Europe anti-submarine warfare and ISR down in the African continent.
LT. DIXON: Admiral, for our next section, let's discuss the Spanish and U.S. relationship, more specifically the maritime relationship that we share with the Spanish navy.
To start us off, back in 2018, you wrote about the importance and history of the Spanish and U.S. partnership, while you were in Menorca, Spain. I was wondering if you could expand on that here.
ADM. FOGGO: Bobby, thanks for bringing up that article and Menorca. In this article, I highlighted the history of our relationship with the Spanish navy and how it goes back to the American War for Independence.
During the war, a young immigrant and mariner from Menorca, Spain arrived on our shores and joined our cause as a naval officer. He was injured, captured, exchanged, and volunteered again to fight alongside General George Washington. His name was Jordi Farragut.
Besides giving our country selfless heroism and unwavering patriotism, Farragut and his wife would raise a son who became the U.S. Navy's first admiral and a U.S. Civil War hero, David Glasgow Farragut.
David Farragut is the namesake of one of our destroyers, the USS Farragut, and it's celebrated and memorialized at the United States Naval Academy.
The Spanish not only gave us a Revolutionary War hero, our first naval flag officer and Civil War hero, but also our first overseas operating base at Port Mahon in Menorca. It was the Mediterranean squadron that preceded the U.S. 6th Fleet.
And in June of 2018, we commemorated the 150-year legacy of Admiral David Farragut's diplomatic mission to Spain, and we celebrated the legacy of his father, Jordi Farragut, with USS Donald Cook. And we'll have some commentary on that from the commanding officer here in a minute.
LT. DIXON: Admiral, thank you for outlining the historical connection between Spain and the U.S. Can you touch upon our relationship with the Spanish navy today?
ADM. FOGGO: Yeah, Lieutenant Dixon, absolutely. Our partnership with Spain could not be stronger today. So how does this relationship play out? The Spanish people are gracious hosts to more than 5,700 U.S. service members, support staff and families based in Spain, including Naval Station Rota, home to our forward-deployed naval forces.
We also have one of the best shipyards for forward-deployed naval forces over here that do incredible work. And as I walk around the USS Porter and USS Donald Cook, I see the quality of that care and I'm very pleased on the return on our investment of U.S. dollars into the Spanish economy.
Our four forward-deployed guided missile destroyers, USS Carney, USS Porter, USS Ross and USS Donald Cook are here as part of the collective defense of Europe and the U.S.' contribution to NATO's integrated air and missile defense that's designed to protect Europe from a ballistic missile attack.
So to add to all of that, Spain participates regularly in the international naval exercises such as Trident Juncture, where NATO allies and partners, including Spain, contributed more than 50,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, 250 aircraft, 70 ships and 10,000 tracked or rolling vehicles to ensure that NATO forces were trained in an Article 5 operation to push an adversary out of a country, Norway, whose sovereignty had been violated.
Formidable Shield, which tests NATO's response to a ballistic missile attack, is conducted every other year. So we started in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We've done three Formidable Shield events, where we've actually shot a wide SM-3 missile, the best ballistic missile interceptor in the world bar none.
Spain and 11 other nations joined us in conducting more than a dozen successful live fire and simulated engagements against ballistic missile targets this past year. And I talked to Spanish leadership. We look forward to inviting them back in Formidable Shield 2021. It will be bigger and better than ever. And this time we're going to get left of the kill chain in cyber and space.
For BALTOPS, Spain sent its flagship, the beautiful amphibious assault ship carrier Juan Carlos I, named after their king. Seven Spanish AV8B carriers embarked and helicopters and two high-end air defense frigates in the exercise. It was spectacular. It was the first time that Juan Carlos has played in BALTOPS, deployed far away from the country of Spain.
Then I talked to the admirals yesterday here and the Spanish admirals on board Juan Carlos, during our key leader engagement, and they said they got a tremendous amount of value out of that.
LT. DIXON: Thank you Sir. I would like to discuss the importance of the location of Rota, Spain. And how do you view Spain as a player in the maritime domain throughout the European theater?
ADM. FOGGO: First of all, Rota's in a geographically strategic and tactical location. It is on the other end of the trans-Atlantic bridge. You know I'm a big believer in NATO and the trans-Atlantic bridge, which starts in North America, comes across the Atlantic and lands on the continent.
It's got several spans, you know, and the GIUK Gap, obviously, you know, one of our special friends and allies, the U.K., but also, the end of that bridge is right here in Spain, which brings us to the continent and the land.
And we have access from here to the Arctic, to the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. So that's why this base is so important for our FDNF destroyers. Because we can go north. We can go south. We can go east. And we can go west. You know, from Rota, we have access to all locations where there could be potential conflict. And it allows us to protect the sea lines of communication on this side of the Atlantic.
And we've discussed many times on this podcast the fact that 90 percent of the world's economy goes by maritime routes. Protecting these sea lines of communication is critical to American prosperity and business and the prosperity of our NATO allies and partners and their security and stability across the globe.
So if you think about this past holiday season and the day-to-day life amenities that we're used to, everything from the toys for our children and the gas for our cars, the sea lines of communication carry those items and are the fabric of our very economy and our society.
So what we're doing out here is protecting American interests on the pointy end of the spear.
LT DIXON: For our final section, we have Commander Kelley Jones, commanding officer of USS Donald Cook here with us to talk about the forward-deployed naval forces of which her ship is a part of.
Commander, thank you for joining Admiral Foggo and I on our podcast.
CDR JONES: Thank you, Admiral Foggo, for having me on your podcast. Admiral, it's great to see you again. It's also great to see you again, Lieutenant Dixon.
ADM FOGGO: Hey, Kelley, fantastic to be here on the great warship USS Donald Cook.
So for our audience, Kelley, would you please tell us about yourself and some of the missions that you've been involved in lately?
CDR. JONES: Again, thank you, Admiral, for having me on your podcast. I'm originally from Alexandria, Virginia. Growing up, I was exposed to the military, as my father served in the Marine Corps. In 2000 I received my commission through the ROTC program at Virginia Tech, where I earned a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering.
Upon receiving my commission, I immediately reported to the Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island, to support the division officer training pipeline. My first ship was USS Seattle, AOE TAC-3, a Sacramento-class combat support ship. And our motto was "We feed the fight."
While on board, I served as the main propulsion officer and the electrical officer. Our first deployment was to the Mediterranean; where we contributed to Operation Enduring Freedom, an experience that I will never forget.
ADM. FOGGO: You know what happened? I was living in northern Virginia. And we were supposed to go to Walt Whitman Intermediate and Mount Vernon High School. And they were constructing the two schools.
So I went to Hayfield for, like, a half a year, and that was great…
ADM. FOGGO: And then I went on to Fort Hunt for freshman year and I graduated from Lake Braddock. So I'm a Virginia boy myself, and I spent, you know, pretty much all my time there and in D.C. when we go back. So we started our careers in the same place, but albeit you're much younger than I am.
And when you were joining the Navy and in the Mediterranean Sea through your deployment, I was in the command pipeline, just completed a PCO course for USS Oklahoma City, one of the greatest submarines ever to sail the Earth.
So even though we're separated by a few years, Kelley, it's amazing how many times we tread the same areas of the world and the fine people that we work with, that we all know together.
So what other assignments have you had that are interesting, that the audience would like to know about?
CDR. JONES: Sir, after Seattle, I served on the USS Gettysburg as the training officer. Upon completion of my two division officer tours, I completed a short tour, part of the Navy Washington intern program. While on shore duty, I received my MBA from the George Washington University and finished Joint Professional Military Education Phase One.
I have also served on board USS Mustin, as the chief engineer. This was my first deployed forward-deployed tour, based out of Yokosuka, Japan. Following Mustin, I was fortunate to be an early commander. I commanded as a lieutenant patrol coastal ships. I deployed to the Middle East on USS Typhoon.
And then before Donald Cook, I was the aide to the secretary of the Navy, and all of that brought me here, 2017, as the XO and fleeting up as the commanding officer of Donald Cook.
ADM. FOGGO: Yeah, I gotta tell you, in the surface Navy, one of the coolest things you guys do is lieutenant command, you know, it reminds me of John F. Kennedy on PT-109, and I always envied that as a submariner, because we're, you know, narrowly tracked throughout our lives, and there's some things that we have to do, and we hold that goal of getting the command dearly. And you've done it more than once. And you're doing it really well now on Donald Cook.
So Bravo Zulu. It's just an incredible story.
LT. DIXON: Admiral, I couldn't agree more… what an incredible story. And, Commander Jones, now that we've gotten to know more about you, can you tell us about USS Donald Cook and what it's like to be part of the forward-deployed naval forces stationed here in Rota, Spain?
CDR. JONES: As I mentioned, I arrived on board Donald Cook in July of 2017 and have completed four FDNF Europe patrols, including my last one as the commanding officer.
To tell you a little bit about our ship, Donald Cook is a multi-mission Arleigh Burk class destroyer. We fight below the sea, on the surface, in the air and in space. We provide our nation's leaders with powerful options in times of crises. And being forward-deployed in Spain means we play a significant role in the great power competition.
Our strategic location allows for us to be on station at a moment's notice. The four destroyers in Spain operate on a cycle of four months at sea followed by four months in Rota. During our four months in Spain, we primarily focus on the material condition of the ship and training for the crew.
And during our four months at sea, we carry out operations, either independently or alongside other allied forces.
Donald Cook also participates regularly in naval exercises through Sixth Fleet, with the aim to increase our operational readiness and strengthen our relationships with partner nations.
Two of our more notable exercises, one was in 2019 with Exercise FANAL in February, where we trained with the Charles de Gaulle carrier strike group with the French, Italian and Spanish navies.
And in September, we were honored to complete the Royal Navy Flag Officer Sea Training, known as FOST, based out of Plymouth, England, with expert instructors from around the world. The three-week training is designed to improve warfighting proficiency.
And then, lastly, U.S. destroyers in Rota have a sister ship in the Spanish navy. Donald Cook is fortunate to have two sister ships, ESPS Reina Sofia and ESPS Canarias.
We were fortunate on our ninth patrol to, kind of, lay the foundation for having an Spanish LNO, sail with us. During our ninth patrol, ESPS Numaxias, Navigator Lieutenant J.G. Ignacio Armada sailed with us as the assistant navigator.
We sailed and worked to strengthen interoperability on technically three different continents, Africa, Europe and Asia. He was a great addition to our crew and I'm excited to continue the program for this upcoming patrol.
ADM. FOGGO: Kelley, that's amazing. You guys have been really busy. And I'll tell you, it wasn't that long ago, when you and I were celebrating the legacy between the Spanish navy and the United States Navy, in Menorca, Spain they had a Spanish frigate there.
And you guys were anchored out and we brought the Spanish CNO and his delegation out to kind of seal the deal on that relationship that goes back to the days of David Glasgow Farragut.
That was a great visit. You made it happen as XO with boats and themes and demos and everything else, and I remember it was a steaming hot day out there.
The other time I ran into you was, you were coming out of the Black Sea and this was a historic visit. We put the Donald Cook in Algiers, Algeria for the first time in a decade.
That's something General Waldhauser had asked me to do for a very long time, to engage key leadership in a county that was very, very important with economic relations with the United States and also mil-to-mil relations on the North African continent, and a country that deals with the same violent extremists that we do and looks for our help in the battle against terrorism.
So when the ship went in, and you guys moored right there in the harbor, overlooking the mosque, it was an absolutely beautiful night. We had a reception on board, over a hundred diplomats came down, and we’re all in our blues to show off the flag.
And I talked to dozens and dozens of sailors from USS Donald Cook. And I asked them, how's it going? You know, because you're on this four-on, four-off cycle. And there was not one sailor on that ship that didn't express the sentiment, sir, we're living the dream.
We just came out of the Black Sea, we went into Batumi, Georgia, we were out there amidst Russian warships patrolling, Russian aircraft, showing the flag, showing solidarity with our allies. Leave the Black Sea, and we go to this historic port visit in Algiers, and we're going to head back and do an availability, and then turn around and go and do it again.
And I think morale was some of the highest I've ever seen amongst a crew, so I give you great credit for that as both the former executive officer and current commanding officer.
So, that being said, can you kind of give us an overview of what life is like as an FDNS sailor here in Rota? And tell us what it was like operating up in the Arctic Circle, throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Each one of these places is different, and you've got to prepare differently for these events.
I mean, the Arctic, no matter what time you're up there, is going to be cold and rough. The Black Sea, no matter what time you're there, you're going to run into the Russian Federation Navy. And in the Mediterranean, you've got to be prepared for all contingencies. So over to you, Kelley.
CDR. JONES: So I've been fortunate to deploy or be stationed in 5th Fleet, 6th Fleet, 7th Fleet. What distinguishes 6th Fleet from other areas of the world is that it's relatively small geographical space, where we encounter both diverse operations, operational environments and regional actors.
When we are in the Black Sea, we operate in close proximity and are shadowed by Russian forces, while simultaneously conducting joint exercises with Ukraine, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. The Turkish do an excellent job in providing that safe passage through the Straits, any time that we're entering or exiting the Black Sea.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, we operate frequently with Israelis, Greek and Turkish forces, and remain ready to respond to crises in the Middle East, as we were called upon to do so in April of 2018.
And then this past October, kind of as you mentioned, we were able to for the first time, to go above the Arctic Circle. What was notable, we did a port visit in Faroe Islands. It was first time a U.S. asset was able to navigate Runavik territorial waters.
So I tell my ward room every day, we're so fortunate to live in 6th Fleet, whereas our counterparts may never get the opportunity to experience, to be called first to the fight, or truly embodying, embody the warfighting ethos that I see in sailors every day, when we're sitting off the coast of the adversary.
ADM. FOGGO: Hey, Kelley, one comment on that. And that was April of 2018 was an incredibly complex operation and a strike mission on fairly short notice, when the president of the United States wanted to send a signal to Bashar al-Assad's regime for once again using chemical weapons against a civilian population.
And you were involved in that with USS Donald Cook. And I have to tell you, the preponderance of Russian warships and the density of Russian warships that were out and patrolling during that period of time in the Eastern Mediterranean was significant. USS Donald Cook was out there, bold and unafraid.
CDR. JONES: Yes, sir.
ADM. FOGGO: I was really proud of you guys, you did a great job and a great job in support of what was a successful operation.
So one last question, or maybe a couple more questions because this is, I think, very valuable for our audience today.
What has been your favorite port visit? And do you have a favorite underway story? And what's the best part about being a forward-deployed C.O. here in Rota, Spain.
CDR. JONES: I would have to say that my favorite port visit was to Theoule-Sur-Mer, France on the French Riviera. And excuse my French, Admiral. I need to do a little bit better, I know it's not as good as yours.
ADM. FOGGO: No, c'est tres bien.
CDR. JONES: We went, this past August, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Dragoon, which was the Allied invasion to retake Southern France in 1944. We were honored to host a reception on board Donald Cook in remembrance of those who died in the fight to liberate occupied France.
Throughout my time on board Donald Cook, we have worked closely with the French navy several times, and I'm honored to take part in these ceremonies with America's oldest ally.
As for my favorite underway story, I would have to say that our Blue Nose ceremony stands out the most. After crossing into the Arctic Circle this past October, we put together a traditional Blue Nose ceremony for the crew.
The Blue Nose ceremony was to determine and ensure that our sailors were no longer warm-blooded, which involved a lot of freezing cold seawater from the Arctic. We are now true Arctic warriors. The ceremony was good for the crew's morale and they earned the right to call themselves Blue Noses.
To answer your last question, it's difficult to choose the best part of being forward-deployed to Rota. When we are in-port, we are thankful for the hospitality, for the local Spanish communities show us, and for the opportunity and the experience, the Southern Spain's rich culture.
When we are underway, we are tasked with challenging missions that makes for exciting patrols. I am proud of our sailors and their families, for the sacrifices that they make every day for our Navy and our country.
LT. DIXON: Admiral Foggo and Commander Jones, thank you so much for joining us today.
ADM. FOGGO: Thanks, Lieutenant Dixon.
And, Kelley, you know, your story about Blue Nose and the Arctic Circle north of 66, it's compelling because I did that on my first boat, and I still have the certificate framed on the wall of my study.
So thanks very much for your leadership. I am extremely proud of you and every one of the sailors on USS Donald Cook. You're doing a heck of a job. I know you're getting ready to go do it again, so fair winds and following seas, we're looking forward to seeing you the next time we're in Rota.
CDR. JONES: Thank you for the opportunity, Admiral.
ADM. FOGGO: You bet.
LT. DIXON: “We hope you have enjoyed this episode of “On the Horizon; Navigating the European and African Theaters.” Please share the Podcast with your friends and family. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin.
Join us next time to hear about what the U.S. Navy is doing throughout Europe and Africa. Until next time, thank you.