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By Lt. j.g. Teresa C. Meadows
In Southern Spain, the U.S. Navy and the Armada Española share piers at Naval Station Rota. Operating in and out of the Cadíz Harbor, both navies share similar missions, operating areas and mindsets, which helps to strengthen their relationship both as neighbors as well as maritime counterparts.
The relationship between Spanish navy Capt. Javiar Moreno, commodore of the Spanish Frigate Squadron MAR-41, and Capt. Joseph Gagliano, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 60 and commander Task Force (CTF) 65, has developed within the last few months. As neighboring forces whose headquarters are now adjacent to each others’, the two leaders immediately recognized that a strong relationship between their two nations was vital, and they set out to create strengthening opportunities.
As units in the Armada Española prepare for a 7-month deployment to the horn of Africa, they set sail for a week to train for potential real-world events and threats while deployed. Moreno extended the invitation to Gagliano for American Sailors to board his vessels for the week underway in order to gain insight and understanding of the Spanish navy’s way of life at sea.
On Jan. 21, 2019 five American Sailors got underway with three different Spanish ships that were heading out to the Alboran Sea: the Santa Maria-class frigates ESPS Navarra (F-85) and ESPS Numancia (F-83) and the Spanish navy tug ESPS La Grana (A-53).
Lt. j.g. Teresa Meadows, Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) Jason Lee, Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) Jason Muldowney, Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Austin Ward, and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Jacob Ferrantino are the first Americans to have participated in an engagement-at-sea between MAR-41 and DESRON 60 which was designed to strengthen the relationship between the squadrons.
“We are neighbors, so it is important for us to work together,” said Spanish navy Cmdr. Martinez Guitian, commanding officer of Navarra.
To make immersion easier, the Spanish provided each Sailor with a Spanish “running mate” who spoke English and had similar work duties. Both of these prerequisites allowed for an easier transition and accommodating ship ride.
As the Spanish prepared for their certification events, the week’s schedule included many opportunities for the U.S. Sailors to get involved with and see first-hand.
The Sailors were able to observe multiple events from the Spanish Combat Center, the bridge, and top-side. By seeing the events from start to finish, it was easy to understand similarities and differences to how the navies approach the same evolutions. Spanish crew members welcomed the Sailors onboard with open arms and eagerness. While out to sea together, the sailors continually shared advice, stories, experiences, questions and knowledge.
“This partnership has been a truly rewarding experience,” said Lee. “Not only did it open up an opportunity for American and Spanish Sailors to work together expanding professional and cultural exchanges but also reinforced the need for constant strain in the operational and training environment as the U.S. Navy works with its regional allies towards maritime security.”
The underway together served to build relationships and friendships, and strengthened the bond between allies on an individual level.
“This embarkation marks another important step in developing the special relationship between Spanish and U.S. ships based in Rota,” said Gagliano. “We kicked off this initiative with Commodore Moreno just eight weeks ago, and already we are sailing together at sea. This shows the seriousness of our commitment.”
CTF 65 and DESRON 60, headquartered in Rota, Spain, overseas the forward-deployed forces of U.S. 6th Fleet’s area of operation in support of regional allies and partners as well as U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.