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Destroyer USS Ross leaves Norfolk for Spain

Sailors aboard USS Ross (DDG 71) man the rails as they depart their Norfolk homeport June 3, 2014. Ross is the second of four Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers to be forward deployed to Rota, Spain to enhance the security of the European region.

Tiffany Franchy balanced her daughter on her hip as she watched the guided missile destroyer USS Ross pull out of Norfolk Naval Station en route to its new, permanent home in Rota, Spain.

"Be good," she mouthed to her husband, Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Franchy, who smiled at his wife from the ship.

She and their daughter will join Franchy later this month in Rota, where the Ross is transferring to more easily provide missile defense in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Ross departed Norfolk on Tuesday and was to stop in Yorktown before crossing the Atlantic. It will arrive in Rota in about two weeks.

The Ross is the second of four destroyers to transfer to the U.S. naval base in Rota; the Donald Cook left Norfolk in February. The Norfolk-based Porter and the Carney, based in Mayport, Fla., will make the shift in 2015.

Equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, the destroyers can detect, intercept and shoot down missiles.

The forward deployment of the ships allows the Navy to spend more time patrolling in the Mediterranean, and the Rota-based ships will have a "different tempo than ships around here," said Chief Petty Officer Karen Cozza, a spokeswoman for the Navy's Atlantic surface force.

There, the destroyers will go through continual maintenance, with intensive work scheduled around their tasking.

The transfer of the Ross is in line with a larger push to show support to NATO and increase the presence of U.S. forces in Europe. Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama called on Congress to back a $1 billion initiative that would support allies who "are now deeply concerned by Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea," according to the White House. The initiative calls for increased participation by the U.S. Navy in NATO deployments, including more deployments to the Black and Baltic seas.

In early April, the Donald Cook deployed to the Black Sea to conduct several operations, including exercises with the Romanian navy.

Pam Breen and Alex Gibson, of Atlanta, said their daughter, Petty Officer 2nd Class Makenzie Gibson, and the other sailors aboard the Ross are ready to take on deployment in the Mediterranean and Black seas.

"I would be more worried if she wasn't prepared," Breen said. "But they've been trained... and they've been getting the Ross ready for a year now."

For some local families, the ship's move to Spain is just another deployment and another goodbye.

Jacqueline Navarro, of Virginia Beach, fought back tears as she waved to her husband, Petty Officer 2nd Class Henry Navarro.

"It's hardest on him," she said, looking down at her crying infant son.

Navarro won't be moving to Spain with her husband, whose contract ends next year.

As the ship pulled away, she turned to walk down the pier, adding, "I always say the toughest job in the military is the job of a military wife."

Kara Driscoll, 757-446-2326, kara.driscoll@pilotonline.com

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