Bartlett native supports ballistic missile defenders in Spain

Hospitalman Austin Elrod, now serving in Rota, Spain, credits his success in the Navy with lessons learned growing up in Bartlett. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Rae Moreno

ROTA, Spain – A 2017 Harrison Central High School graduate and Bartlett, Tennessee, native is serving in Spain at Naval Hospital Rota in support of ballistic-missile defense ships forward-deployed to Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota.

Hospitalman Austin Elrod is a Navy hospital corpsman working at Naval Hospital Rota and is responsible for health care to all active duty personnel, their families and Department of Defense beneficiaries.

He credits success in the Navy with lessons learned growing up in Bartlett.

“I know a lot of people in my hometown and they are always caring and supportive,” said Elrod. “I’ve modeled myself after them and I believe I have those same qualities.”

Naval Station Rota is operationally equipped with four forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers tasked to enhance the ballistic missile defense of the European region.

These four destroyers have a critical NATO mission, specifically to provide full coverage protection for all NATO European populations, territories and forces against the increasing threats posed by the ability to acquire ballistic missiles capabilities.

According to the NATO website, many countries have, or are trying to develop ballistic missiles. The ability to acquire these capabilities does not necessarily mean there is an immediate intent to attack NATO, but that the alliance has a responsibility to take any possible threat into account as part of its core task of collective defense.

Ballistic Missile Defense is a key defensive capability for the U.S., providing protection against the threat of short and medium-range ballistic missile attacks. Stationing four ballistic missile defense ships in Spain provides an umbrella of protection to forward-deployed forces, friends and allies while contributing to a broader defense of the United States.

Situated on a 6,100-acre Spanish Navy base, Naval Station Rota provides cargo, fuel and logistics support to units transiting the region, supporting U.S. and NATO ships; U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force aircraft with a 670-acre airfield; and the largest weapons and fuels facilities in Europe. Under the guidance of the Agreement on Defense Cooperation (ADC), the U.S. and Spanish navies work together and share many facilities.

The Kingdom of Spain is a very important ally to the United States for projecting military power into the Mediterranean, North Africa and Middle East. The United States has significant shared security interests. Spain has traditionally supported U.S. forces’ deployments and operations, enabling U.S. forces to depart from Spain directly into international air and sea space.

“U.S. Naval Hospital Rota understands the unique demands and challenges that the fleet, forces and families of our community face,” said Capt. Judy Cynthia, commanding officer U.S. Naval Hospital Rota. “We are honored to provide operationally relevant medical care and support that not only meets all of the civilian healthcare quality standards, but is highly specialized and tailored to meet the needs of those we serve.”

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Elrod, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. He said he is honored to carry on that family tradition.

“My stepfather is in the Navy as well,” said Elrod. “He has supported me through thick and thin and helped me make the decision of a lifetime.”

Elrod is also proud of earning the hospital corpsman rating. He is now using his training and is able to help others in a way that not everyone can do.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Elrod and other service members at Naval Station Rota know they are a part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

“Being in the Navy and meeting so many extraordinary people has helped me learn from them to strengthen my work ethic,” said Elrod.

Brian T. Glunt is a Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class serving in the Navy Office of Community Outreach.