By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Coffer
PORT OF DJIBOUTI, Djibouti (Feb. 1, 2021) The forward deployed Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) swapped crews in the Port of Djibouti, Djibouti, Feb. 1, 2021, after completing the ships inaugural deployment through the U.S. Sixth Fleet Area of Operations.
The departing “Blue Crew” originally left Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia with the ship on July 27, 2020, for its inaugural deployment following its commissioning in March 2020. Consisting of a mix between U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners, the Blue Crew supported operations with allies and partners in the Mediterranean, and the waters around East, South, and West Africa, to include the Gulf of Guinea.
“Crew swapping is all about being ready to do the mission assigned, so this is about readiness, this platform has a lot of flexibility in the missions that it can perform,” said Commanding Officer, Capt. Michael Concannon. “We are the first ship assigned to Africa Command and it’s important that we take advantage of the opportunity to train with allied nations, building capacity and working with our partner and Allied nations.”
Having the ability to swap crews from a ship almost anywhere in the world can have a large mission impact and enable naval forces the ability to maintain a presence in any region of the world.
Cannon said that swapping crews alleviates the burden of having to travel all the way back to the states to continue the mission.
“If we keep our people current and ready at all times, we can engage with partner and Allied nations more often, increase training opportunities, increase interoperability and create an opportunity for us to work together,” said Concannon. “If there is a crisis or something that requires us to latch together to get a job done, then we are more ready to do that with crew swapping.”
The oncoming “Gold Crew” comes to the ship eager to begin deployment and are ready to accomplish the mission at hand.
“I have a wonderful crew that I would like to focus on and they have come here extremely positive, very motivated and they want to try to do those things that others may not be able to,” said Concannon.
The ESB ship class highly flexible that may be used across a broad range of military operations supporting multiple operational phases, similar to the Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD) class. Acting as a mobile sea base, they are part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to provide prepositioned equipment and sustainment with flexible distribution.
“We’re going to establish a standard, we’re going to establish a precedent, this is how you do this and we’re going to learn from our lessons and be ready to do something, “said Concannon. “This was a tremendous challenge to get certified without your ship and to still get out here and do a marvelous job. I couldn’t be any more impressed, these Sailors are great.”
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, headquartered in Naples, Italy, Conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.