NEWS | July 13, 2021

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams Swaps Crew

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Malachi Lakey

The forward-deployed Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) swapped crews at Naval Station Rota after completing the ship’s second deployment through the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations, July 9, 2021.

The departing “Gold Crew,” comprised of both U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners circumnavigated the African continent during their deployment earlier this year, which started in Djibouti, Africa in February 2021 and ended in Dakar, Senegal in June 2021.

“The Blue/Gold Crew system allows us to keep the ship forward deployed,” said Capt. David Gray, blue crew commanding officer. “The ship can continue to do its mission while half of the crew recharges and gets ready to set sail and do great things again.”

While deployed, the “Gold Crew” supported U.S. led exercises with allies and regional partners such as U.S. Africa Command's exercise African Lion, the largest, premier, joint, annual exercise hosted by Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal, 7-18 June, and the 16th iteration of exercise Phoenix Express off the coast of Tunis, Tunisia during the at-sea portion of the multinational maritime exercise in North Africa, May 22-26.

As a mobile sea base, Williams is a part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to provide prepositioned equipment and sustainment with flexible distribution.

“The ship was built to do this,” Gray said. “We do what we need to do to keep the mission going.”

Homeported in Souda Bay, Greece, Williams is the first permanently assigned ship to the U.S. Africa Command area of operations. The ship operates with a combined crew of U.S. Sailors and Military Sealift Command civil service mariners.

U.S. Sixth Fleet, 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.