By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs
In the 15th episode of “On the Horizon: Navigating the European and African Theaters,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (CNE-CNA), discussed naval activities in the European theater, and the strategic significance of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain.
This episode included two major differences from past podcast. The podcast featured its second-ever guest and was recorded for the first time while Foggo was on travel. Foggo invited Cmdr. Kelley Jones, commanding officer of the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) to discuss the importance of forward-deployed naval forces (FDNF) to Europe and the special relationship the U.S. Navy has with the Spanish Armada. The episode was recorded aboard Donald Cook, while pierside in Rota.
NAVEUR Hosted Triple C
Typically held in Stuttgart Germany, the Combined Commanders Conference, or Triple C, was hosted by CNE-CNA at NAVSTA Rota this month. Rota was selected to host the Triple C by Foggo to showcase U.S. Navy platforms and capabilities to other U.S. service commanders in the European theater.
Foggo emphasized the importance of bringing our joint leaders to Rota, “…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 our NATO allies and partners with collective defense. For each of the leaders in Europe, it's critical that we all know and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of the services.”
At the Triple C, U.S. military leaders toured the FDNF ship Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78), Virginia-class attack submarine USS Washington (SSN 787), P-8A Poseidon of Patrol Squadron VP-4, and the U.S. 6th Fleet (C6F) Blue Ridge-class command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20). In addition, they toured the Spanish navy’s multi-purpose amphibious assault ship-aircraft carrier ESPS Juan Carlos and met with senior Spanish maritime leaders.
Spanish-American Relationship over the centuries
In 2018, Foggo wrote a blog highlighting the history of our relationship with the Spanish navy and how that relationship started back during the American War of Independence.
“During the war, a young immigrant and mariner from Menorca, Spain arrived on our shores and joined our cause as a naval officer,” said Foggo. “He was injured, captured, exchanged, and volunteered again to fight alongside General George Washington. His name was Jordi Farragut.”
The Farragut family provided war heroes during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War including the son of Jordi Farragut, The U.S. Navy’s first admiral, David Glasgow Farragut.
In addition to war heroes, Foggo points out, “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.”
Over the last 200 years, the Navy’s relationship with the Spanish Armanda has only grown stronger and continues to expand, particularly after the NATO alliance was formed, which then officially aligned our strategic national security goals.
“Our partnership with Spain could not be stronger today… 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,” said Foggo.
For the maintenance of those naval forces, Foggo said, “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.”
Foggo highlighted his top three exercises in which U.S. and Spanish forces participated in: 1) Trident Juncture, which is a NATO exercise mobilizing 50,000 troops in the defense of Norway; 2) Formidable Shield, testing NATO's response to a ballistic missile attack; and 3) BALTOPS where Spain sent its flagship, amphibious assault ship ESPS Juan Carlos I in 2019.
Strategic and Tactical
When asked about why NAVSTA Rota was so important, Foggo explained, “First of all, Rota's in a geographically strategic and tactical location. It is on the other end of the trans-Atlantic bridge...”
Having our FDNF ships in Rota allows quick response times to developing crisis around the European and African theaters.
“The fact that…90 percent of the world's economy goes by maritime routes,” Foggo highlighted, “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.”
Foggo ended the segment with a message to NATO and to the Spanish people. “We’re grateful to NATO and we're grateful to Spain for their extraordinary hospitality in hosting our military families and our units here. It's a win-win for our two countries because together we provide stability across the globe, and we're an integral part of NATO's collective defense.”
Guest Commander Kelley Jones
Foggo’s guest for the podcast was Jones, a commanding officer of one of the four destroyers forward deployed to Rota. Right off the bat, Foggo and Jones realized they went to the same school separated by a few decades. Through the years they have crossed paths more than once.
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Jones served on the Sacramento-class fast combat support ship USS Seattle (AOE 3), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64), the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), and the Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Typhoon (PC 5). She completed many shore commands, most notable serving as the aide-de-camp to the Secretary of the Navy, followed by executive officer and now commanding officer of Donald Cook.
Jones described the role that Donald Cook plays in U.S. 6th Fleet, “We fight below the sea, on the surface, in the air, and in space,” she said. “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.”
Having just finished their 9th patrol supporting three continents – Europe, Africa, and Asia, Jones reflected on the destroyer’s missions above the Arctic Circle, in the Baltic and Black Seas, and throughout the Mediterranean conducting numerous port visits and exercises with European and African allies and partners.
“I've been fortunate to deploy, or be stationed in 5th Fleet, 6th Fleet, 7th Fleet,” said Jones. “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.”
Her examples included working with Black Sea partners, being shadowed by Russian forces, and conducting port visits in areas the Navy has never been like Faroe Islands.
Foggo ended the segment with an encouraging note for Jones and her crew.
“Thanks very much for your leadership. I am extremely proud of you and every one of the sailors on USS Donald Cook,” Foggo concluded. “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.”