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British NATO sailors meet the Spanish Armada

ÁDIZ, Spain – Naval staff officers serving with the ARRC have enjoyed a free flow of information – after meeting with their Spanish counterparts at Naval Station Rota, in Andalucía, southern Spain.

The two-day exercise aimed to strengthen ties and promote an exchange of knowledge between the maritime personnel from the U.K.- based NATO formation and Spanish Maritime Forces (SPMARFOR).

During the visit, the British team met with fellow sailors from the United States, France, and Portugal, as well as from Spain.

Royal Navy Commander John Payne, the ARRC’s chief maritime officer, explained: "It’s important for us, now, to build those relationships so we can understand the maritime perspective of any operation.

"We’ll be able to afford much better advice to the commander of the ARRC and the staff on what the capabilities and limitations are of that maritime force.”


After a series of briefs explaining command structures, missions, and capabilities, the British team joined the crew aboard Spanish ship Castilla (L52), which has served on a number of humanitarian missions.

Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Andy Spurdle, a maritime planner for HQ ARRC, said he found it incredibly useful to understand the vessel’s capabilities, especially since he hadn’t had the opportunity to work with the Spanish often.

"It’s been useful just to build-up those relationships, so that should we both find ourselves activated in support of NATO operations we have those personal relationships,” said Spurdle. "We can pick up a telephone, drop an e-mail and I know who I am talking to; that’s almost priceless.”


During the trip, the sailors also visited the iconic lighthouse at Cape Trafalgar, scene of arguably the most famous victory in British military history – the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, led by Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson against the French and Spanish fleets.

"Since you join the Navy, it is drummed in to you the significance of the Battle of Trafalgar,” continued Spurdle. "To be able to see where the battle took place puts it into context; I hadn’t appreciated personally how close it was to the Straights of Gibraltar.”

Over two centuries later, much has changed. Once foes, the three nations are now NATO allies.

"The Spanish and the French are integral to NATO, just as the U.K. and all the 29 nations,” added Payne. "We work together, embed together and operate together. We work together as a NATO force at sea almost on a daily basis.”

Story by Allied Rapid Reaction Corps Public Affairs Office

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