ROTA NAVAL BASE
by Saskia Mier
The construction of the Rotal Naval Station, also known as NAVSTA Rota, began under the supervision of the Naval Office of Shipyards and Ports in 1953. The base then consisted of more than 6,100 acres of land on the north side of the Bay of Cádiz between towns of Rota and El Puerto de Santa María.
Spain was the only Eurpoean country to be excluded from the post WW2 Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program). With the escalation of the Cold War, the United States reconsidered its position, and in 1951 embraced Spain as an ally, encouraged by Franco's aggressive anti-communist policies. Francisco Franco also changed his relationships with the United States in order to improve Spanish economy.
As part of the Madrid Pacts in 1953, Spain decided to cede the use of four military bases to the United States. These were the air bases of, Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid), Zaragoza (Aragón), Morón de la Frontera (Seville), as well as the naval base of Rota (Cádiz).
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the US Navy downsized greatly after the end of the Cold War, dramatically declining the population. As US Navy started to reduce its presence USAF realized the potential of the airfield as refuelling stop in Middle East deployments. Rota was used by C-5 and C-141 plans in Gulf War in 1991. Later US agreed with Spain to improve air base installations so it could handle more cargo plans operations.
The base is home to an airfield and seaport with a joint use of the base, remaining under the Spanish flag and under the command of a Spanish Admiral. The Spanish Navy is responsible for the external security of the base, and the navies (both Spanish and US) are responsible for internal security with a joint force of military police.
NAVSTA Rota is technically a tenant facility of the Rota Spanish Navy base, although the USA pays for all the expenses and capital improvements. As a result, certain U.S military customs are not observed, such as the display of a U.S flag, which is only allowed during the annual Fourth of July celebration or occasionally at half mast as a mark of respect with the ad-hoc permission of the Spanish Admiral.
The Rota Base is the largest American military community in Spain, housing US Navy and US Marine Corps personnel, as well as the small US Army and US Air Force contingents on the base.
Since the 1980s, various leftist and activist pacifist groups have marched annually to protest the presence of U.S. and Spanish military personnel and equipment at the port of Rota. The protests against the base are considered controversial amongst local residents, with some opposed to the protests because they consider that the base provides jobs and businesses benefit from money derived from the Spanish and U.S. military.
Many American retired service personnel return to Rota and Andalucia as tourists to revisit the region.