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NEWS | March 31, 2021

A Sailor’s Life: Hershel “Woody” Williams Circumnavigates the African Continent

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric Coffer

For most ships in the U.S. Navy fleet, portions of their crew will be on their first deployment. The Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) is no exception to that, where a large bulk of the crew deployed for the first time.

“The crew recognizes that this platform is something new and unique and deploying in this theater is unique,” said Commanding Officer, Capt. Michael Concannon. “A third of my crew has never deployed before, so they are anxious to get on deployment and to do their jobs as Sailors.”

For many Sailors, their first deployment can be a grueling learning experience in trying to juggle ship life, the work they do on board, and staying positive through the long days.

“Being on my first deployment is a lot of fun, it’s a great experience and the comradery is really high and its nothing like anything I have experienced before,” said Seaman Dion Dumayas, from Wheeling, Illinois. “It’s a little sad leaving behind a wife and a dog, but I really enjoy what we are doing on this deployment, with the people that we are doing it with.”

Being on your first deployment brings its own rite of passage, but with the new rotating crew format for ships, that is another hurdle to manage entirely.

“I think it’s a double ended sword being on a rotating crew. One year you might be home for Christmas, the next year, you might not,” Dumayas said. “But at the same time, I think it’s a better schedule for us than what other ships’ crews go through and being on a forward deployed ship gives you more time at sea to be able to do your job more often.”

The first deployment can leave a lasting impression on anyone, and for many who serve, it leaves one with longstanding memories and incredible stories.

“It’s really cool to be sailing around the African continent. I have friends in the military who tell me they did this, we did that or went to this country, but I have never heard of anyone circumnavigating Africa and getting to visit all these amazing countries and ports,” Dumayas said. “We will probably be able to earn our emerald shellback certificates, which is pretty rare to get, and I can say I don’t know anyone else that has done this outside of the Navy, so it will be an amazing story to bring back home.”

Whether Sailors make the military a career or leave after a short while, having gained some stories and life experiences, many leave with a sense of accomplishment.

“Before the military, I had no path or direction in life, but now I put on the uniform, I get all this experience, I just learn, constantly learning,” Dumayas said. “The military has made me grow a lot faster, it has turned me into a better person and it has really opened my eyes to my future and cleared a path for me to go on.”