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Rear Admiral Brad Collins, Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central served as the presiding officer for the ceremony, which was attended by Spanish Vice Adm. Ricardo Hernandez, Admiral-in-Chief, Rota Naval Base, as well as numerous distinguished visitors, American and Spanish service members, Naval Station Rota employees and their family.
“Naval Station Rota, Spain serves as the hallmark of U.S.-Spanish military cooperation,” said Collins. “As the ‘Gateway to the Mediterranean,’ from here in Rota, the installation enables operations that provide critical security and stability to the maritime commons of Europe and Africa, including the Mediterranean Sea, one of the busiest sea lanes in the world.”
Baird took command in June 2019 and led the installation through a worldwide pandemic, hosted evacuees from Afghanistan during Operation Allies Welcome, and saw the initial homeport swaps for the Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Europe destroyers.
“Words cannot express my gratitude towards this community, nor how proud I am of what this community accomplished together. One of the things I am most proud of is that this installation never stopped operating through the pandemic, but I have never felt more fulfilled than during our work here in support of the evacuations from Afghanistan,” said Baird. “Our team is made up of not only the service members but also the civilians who serve and their family members – both Spanish and US. Without each and every one of you, the successes and accomplishments of the past 3 years would not have been possible.”
Baird took a unique approach to leadership during his tenure through frequent social media updates to the community, a trend that began during the pandemic, in which he often times would weave in relevant stories from his personal life to add perspective to the ever-changing situation. Baird noted that the community’s support and the hard work and discipline of the service members enabled the 41 commands at Naval Station Rota to safely and successfully meet their missions, but none of that would have been possible without the close partnership with the installation’s Spanish hosts.
“For decades, US military personnel and their families have viewed Rota as one of the most desirable duty stations in the world, and one of the main reasons for that is because of the friendly and welcoming local community.” said Baird. “But I think the challenges we shared and conquered together through the pandemic and through supporting the evacuees from Afghanistan have surpassed feelings of friendship. We now feel like we are part of one big family. A Spanish and American family.
Upon taking command, Suarez said he looks forward to continuing Rota’s record of excellence and building upon the close ties with the Spanish.
“My family and I are very excited to have the opportunity to experience life in Spain and to build upon the remarkable work Capt. Baird has done here in Rota,” said Suarez. “Together, with our Spanish partners, Team Rota will continue to provide the best possible support to the warfighters on the waterfront, the strategic lift missions on the flightline, and the families that are part of our community.”
Naval Station Rota enables and supports U.S., NATO and partner nation forces through six lines of operation which are security, port operations, air operations, safety, quality of life, and what is called the core. The core includes, fuel, water, power and information technology infrastructure. Through these lines of operation NAVSTA Rota maximizes the combat capability of U.S. and allied operational forces.
LT Lyndsi Gutierrez
Public Affairs Officer
Commander, U.S. Naval Activities Spain
PSC 819, Box 1 FPO AE 09645-0001
Phone: (34) 956-82-1680 / DSN 727-1680
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