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    Taking to the Road: Spouses Learn to Drive Manual

    Taking to the Road: DESRON 60 Teaches Spouses to Drive Manual

    Photo By Courtney Pollock | NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (May 24, 2022) – A spouse from the Arleigh Burke-class...... read more read more



    Story by Courtney Pollock 

    Naval Station Rota, Spain

    While moving overseas typically includes a massive list of to do items, learning to drive a manual transmission vehicle may – or may not – make the list. For many, moving to Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain brings this issue to the forefront due to the difficulty of finding affordable, automatic vehicles.

    “One of the concerns spouses had was how expensive automatic vehicles were in Europe,” explained Lt. Cmdr. Travis Gardner, chaplain for Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 60. “One story told to us was of a household that paid just over $4,000 to rent an automatic vehicle until they could purchase one because they could not drive a stick shift.”

    This concern was brought up to CTF 65 / DESRON 60 Commodore Capt. Kyle Gantt, Command Master Chief Gary Rosenbaum, and Gardener during a focus group of DESRON 60 ombudsmen and family readiness group (FRG) members. Exacerbating the issue is the fact that Americans are only allowed to import one American specification vehicle per the agreement with the Kingdom of Spain.

    “We know financial stress can quickly lead to operational stress in Sailor's lives,” said Gantt. “Our driving course is an opportunity to meet a need in our community."

    Gantt is referring to a course that was created as leadership brainstormed ways to address the issue. They hoped that by teaching the skills and building the driver’s confidence, they could ultimately ease the financial and logistical burden on Sailors and their families.

    The first class was held in early May, and has quickly became routine with small groups meeting each week to work on the basics of driving manual transmission. The instructors are DESRON 60 Sailors looking to help their community by providing one-on-one instruction and a vehicle.

    “I've been stationed overseas in unfamiliar places before, and the one thing that always made my transition easier were the members of local military community who took the time to explain the unique things needed in that area,” said Senior Chief Fire Controlman Ginger Hansen, a volunteer instructor. “I always aim to pay it forward, and keep our military communities strong.”

    Hansen and the other volunteer instructors stepping up to assist their community has ultimately led to spouses feeling more confident and empowered.

    "The class was very helpful and beneficial to those new to Rota and driving manual,” said a spouse who participated. “The instructors were very informative, patient, and reassuring. They created real life scenarios we would encounter while driving in Rota, such as approaching roundabouts, down shifting, and stopping for pedestrians. I feel confident now driving a manual around Rota!"

    Each class begins with the instructor explaining the basics of driving manual transmission before moving on to practicing these skills in empty parking lots on the installation.

    “They begin nervous and quite unsure, then the shift begins when they go from neutral to first gear for the first time,” said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Mathieu Portivent, a volunteer instructor. “You see them light up and gain a massive amount of confidence.”

    By the end of the class, Portivent says most are driving through roundabouts, accelerating and decelerating, and feeling confident in their abilities to continue practicing on their own.

    Ultimately the command hopes that this added skill will help spouses get settled in their new duty station and create a positive ripple in their time in Spain.

    "The course is part of a larger DESRON initiative called Families United (FUN),” said Gantt. “Through FUN, Chaplain Travis Gardner leads a fantastic program designed to support family connection across DESRON."

    Supporting the family is a priority that Gardner reiterates and the inspiration behind FUN. He understands the challenges the spouses face such as solo parenting and managing the home due to the high operational tempo of the ships, and wants them to know the command is there to support them.

    “They are not alone nor forgotten, but rather in the front of our minds,” said Gardner.

    He encourages DESRON 60 spouses – as well as spouses of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 79 – to attend the monthly informal FUN chat for comradery, connection, and community. The meet-and-greet is held on the second Wednesday of each month at the Library Café. These meetings help spouses to meet and support each other as well as the command to hear their concerns and challenges. If you have additional questions, please email Gardner at



    Date Taken: 06.17.2022
    Date Posted: 06.17.2022 06:49
    Story ID: 423221
    Location: ROTA, ES 

    Web Views: 144
    Downloads: 0