Rota to have role in Africa missions
The Navy base and hospital in Rota, Spain, will be the primary go-to location for servicemembers freed after being held as prisoners of war or hostages while carrying out missions in Africa, officials said.
Rota was selected as U.S. Africa Command’s primary reintegration location because of Spain’s geographical proximity to Africa, and because the base’s airfield and hospital are within a mile of each other.
Rota is the alternate location for U.S. European Command for reintegration, the process of treating and debriefing members who had been prisoners of war or hostages. EUCOM’s primary medical site, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, now will serve as AFRICOM’s alternate location, according to AFRICOM spokesman Vince Crawley.
"Let’s say a person is a POW or a hostage in Africa. When they’re returned or recovered, they’d go through the [reintegration] process here," Rota spokesman Lt. Mike Morley said. "You don’t want to fly someone home and drop them at their front door without going through the process of being medically and psychologically helped."
"Rota is a perfect spot," John J.K. Whitley, a personnel recovery specialist for Africa Command, said in a statement released by the Navy.
"In Ramstein and Landstuhl in Germany, the runway where you reintegrate people and land is at the air base. They are put on a bus, shuttled via the autobahn, then another road back through a gate and then to the hospital.
"Here, the airfield and hospital are less than a mile apart, a straight shot. That’s why we like it."
Reintegration is broken into three phases, officials said, with the first beginning in the country were the member is recovered. Usually, after 48 hours the recovered person is taken to a military medical treatment facility to undergo a "decompression period" and what is called Survival Evasion Resistance Escape debriefing. The final phase is returning the member to his or her home.
"This process was developed to help them tell their story and get the help they needed so they can go back to their unit," Whitley said in the statement. "Sometimes there is some guilt; sometimes there [is] a feeling that they weren’t able to save their buddy or aircraft. The decompression time is for them to normalize."
For years, Ramstein and Landstuhl have had specialized, at-the-ready teams of doctors, surgeons, psychiatrists and technicians for reintegration, hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw said.
Experts have processed several high-profile reintegration cases, Shaw said, such as former Iraq POW Jessica Lynch, and Marcus Luttrell, a Navy SEAL who was the lone member of a team to survive a firefight with the Taliban.