ROTA, Spain (NNS) -- Historically the United States and Spanish air operations have been conducted separately from two different locations along Naval Station Rota's flight line. That changed June 10, as Rota's new air traffic control tower officially opened.
The new tower brings U.S. and Spanish air operations underneath one roof, facilitating joint coordination and cooperation.
"This tower represents jointness at its best," said Capt. Greg Pekari, commander, U.S. Naval Activities Spain. "Here, the vision of the base leadership regarding teamwork culminates at this tower where U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, Spanish military and civilians work together under the same building to support the same mission -- which is the safe air operations throughout Naval Station Rota. This is more than just a new joint tower; this tower supports NATO and USTRANSCOM (United States Transportation Command) requirements in Europe, Southwest Asia and Africa."
This project was a three-year, $15.8 million construction effort that started June 2012 and was completed August 2015.
"This is a very significant day and a big step forward for all of us," said Spanish Vice Adm. Santiago R. Gonzalez Gmez, admiral of logistics support for the Bay of Cadiz. "I really appreciate the effort of both teams in preparing and completing this project."
The new tower boasts numerous equipment upgrades, complete line of sight of the airfield and allows space for more controllers to operate. With the co-location of Spanish and American controller supervisors, it also improves communication between the joint forces.
"We used to have two operating towers -- one at the Spanish helicopter port and one that the Americans used," said Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Norberto Rodriguez, U.S. tower chief. "It would sometimes create confusion during operations because a lot of information would have to be passed around from one supervisor in one tower to another supervisor in another tower."
The new tower is more than 56 meters tall, soaring 36 meters higher than the old structure. This added height lets control tower operators see the full spectrum of the airfield since adding 4,000 more feet to its runway.
The old tower, which was 45 years old, will be removed but the passenger terminal on the ground floor will remain intact and in operation for air travel passenger services.
"This facility, who all of you have helped to build, is a great support for both navies and it will have a huge and very positive mission impact to our countries," said Pekari.
The air traffic controllers appeared very excited to be working in this new, state-of-the-art building. It will enable them to work smarter, not harder in support of completing their mission.
"With the transfer to the new tower we upgraded to new, touch-screen interfaces, which is a lot more modern and goes well with the rest of the facility," said Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class Drew Ketcham. "The information is a lot closer to your fingertips and a lot more inclusive. It's more expeditious to have everything you need in one building."
Following the ribbon-cutting, Pekari and Gonzalez Gmez signed two Joint Statements of Understanding. One was for the new tower and the other was for the newly fabricated Shipboard Electronic Systems Evaluation Facility, both of which are further evidence of the spirit of cooperation and mutual support the Spanish and American navies have maintained.
Naval Station Rota enables and supports operations of U.S. and allied forces and provides quality services in support of the fleet, fighter, and family for Commander, Navy Installations Command in Navy Region, Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia.
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