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NEWS | Sept. 13, 2022

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) arrives in Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs

The Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) arrived in Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo for a scheduled port visit, Sept. 12, 2022.

The port visit marks the first U.S. ship visit to the Republic of the Congo in more than a decade and demonstrates the strengthening security relationship between the two countries. While in Pointe Noire, Hershel “Woody” Williams will host ship tours and a reception for government, military and community leaders as well as participate in a soccer game with local community youth.

“We are grateful to the Republic of Congo for allowing us this port visit – it’s a great honor to be the first U.S. ship to visit after such a hiatus," said Capt. Chad Graham, commanding officer of Hershel “Woody” Williams. "I look forward to strengthening the already great relations we have between the U.S. and Congo, and that we continue to support one another as we pursue safety and security in the region."

The Republic of Congo is an important partner of the United States in promoting peace and security in Africa. Additionally, the Republic of Congo participated in exercise Obangame Express 2022, the largest annual maritime security exercise in Western Africa. These types of exercises strengthen our partnerships and allow our countries to work closely on shared transnational maritime goals.

“Given the Republic of Congo’s location and its important role in maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, the security partnership between the United States and the Republic of Congo continues to grow and holds many opportunities and possibilities to advance our shared interests in the region,” said Eugene Young, U.S. Ambassador to Republic of the Congo. “The visit of USS Hershel “Woody” Williams demonstrates our commitment to further strengthen that partnership.”   

U.S. Naval Forces Africa’s (NAVAF’s) ongoing maritime security cooperation with African partners focuses on maritime safety and security through increased maritime awareness, response capabilities, and infrastructure. It also includes various exercises and operations conducted by U.S., European, and African partners and allies throughout the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of responsibility.

“We are delighted and honored by the government of the Republic of Congo and the Congolese Armed Forces' willingness to host such an important ship visit in the region, and we hope to continue similar official visits in the future,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Thyer, defense official at U.S. Embassy Brazzaville.

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.

Hershel "Woody" Williams is the first warship permanently assigned to the AFRICOM area of responsibility and is forward-deployed to the NAVAF area of operations, while employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet.

The ship is an expeditionary sea base, which is capable of conducting counter-piracy, maritime security, and humanitarian and disaster relief operations, as well as supporting a variety of rotary wing aircraft. Acting as a mobile sea base, Hershel "Woody" Williams is a part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to support global missions.

For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability. 

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.