Sailors stationed aboard the frigate Stephen W. Groves toss their mooring lines to Naval Station Rota Port Operations personnel during a fuel stop last year. (MC2 Joseph Ebalo/Navy)
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LOCATION: A few miles up the west coast of Gibraltar, which forms Spain’s southernmost tip. Just across the Strait of Gibraltar is the fabled Moroccan city of Tangier.
MISSION: The U.S. military’s longtime presence at this base here shrank substantially in the 1990s, but recently the “Gateway to the Med” is making a comeback as a vital, long-term outpost on EUCOM’s new map. In 2011, the U.S. Navy announced plans to base four destroyers with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Systems here as a pillar of NATO’s missile defense umbrella. Rota also has emerged as a primary launching pad for operations in U.S. Africa Command, which are now focused on extremist groups operating in North Africa and the Sahel region.
LIFESTYLE: Rota is wildly popular among sailors and Marines as a memorable stop on Mediterranean deployments, with a beach-party atmosphere and siesta lifestyle among the locals that can extend the nightlife past sunrise.