By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Fred Gray IV
The forward-deployed Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) swapped crews after completing the ship’s fourth deployment through the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations, May 9, 2022.
The crew swap follows “Gold Crew’s” five-month deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility where the crew, comprised of both U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners, participated in Obangame Express and performed maritime security operation patrols with African partners along the west coast of Africa.
“Our deployment success was due to impressive cooperation and coordination among several partners, Allies, national and international agencies and three different United States maritime forces,” said Capt. Michael Concannon, gold crew commanding officer, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams. “The resolve and mission focus of our African partners, with support from many other organizations, led to the successful execution of several maritime training scenarios in Exercise Obangame Express. We then implemented that training during maritime security operations along the west coast of Africa that led to a successful illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing interdiction and a successful drug interdiction event.”
The oncoming “Blue Crew” will be led by Capt. Chad Graham. Having the ability to swap crews on a ship almost anywhere in the world gives naval forces the ability to maintain a constant presence in any region of the world.
“My crew and I are excited to be back aboard Hershel “Woody” Williams,” said Capt. Chad Graham, blue crew commanding officer. “Capt. Concannon and the “Gold Crew” excelled in their missions, and we are eager to get underway and continue their work to build on the African partnership success.”
Following the crew swap, “Blue Crew” will finish the maintenance availability in Civitavecchia, and head to the northern coast of Africa to take part in Exercise Phoenix Express 2022.
Throughout the deployment the “Gold Crew” traveled approximately 12,000 nautical miles while operating in the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility.
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.
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.
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.
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.