NEWS | Aug. 5, 2021

Hershel “Woody” Williams Returns to Gulf of Guinea, Strengthening Partnership with Coastal African Nations

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US Sixth Fleet Public Affairs

Members of the Ghanaian Special Boat Squadron embarked the expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) to participate in maritime security training alongside the Nigerian Navy, Aug. 5, 2021.

USS Hershel "Woody" Williams' return to the Gulf of Guinea builds upon exercise Obangame Express, continues to demonstrate U.S. commitment to African partnerships, and ensures prosperity through maritime security and stability. Both Ghana and Nigeria were amongst the 32 nations that participated in Obangame Express 2021, which concluded in March.

“We’re happy to have our Ghanaian counterparts aboard and excited to work together,” Capt. Chad Graham, Hershel “Woody” Williams commanding officer, blue crew, said. “Maritime security is not a one nation obligation. It takes cooperative efforts like this to achieve it.”

The Gulf of Guinea security is crucial to West Africa’s economic development, requiring the regional coast countries to have strong, professional navies, coast guards, and law enforcement institutions that can enable maritime trade to flourish.

Over the last decade, Gulf of Guinea nations have steadily increased their capability of working together and sharing information.

“We strongly value our Ghanaian and Nigerian partners, as it’s this kind of cooperation and communication that keeps the region safe,” Graham said. “The Gulf of Guinea’s size requires a team effort. It takes multiple coastal nations working together, for mutual benefit, and that’s what we see.”

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is the first warship permanently assigned to the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility. The U.S. shares a common interest with African partner nations in ensuring security, safety, and freedom of navigation on the waters surrounding the continent, because these waters are critical for Africa’s prosperity and access to global markets.

For over 70 years, U.S. Sixth Fleet forces have forged strategic relationships with our allies and partners and solidified a foundation of shared values, experiences, and vision aimed at preserving security and stability.

The ESB ship class is a highly flexible platform that may be used across a broad range of military operations. Acting as a mobile sea base, they are part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to support missions assigned.

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.