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NEWS | Oct. 5, 2022

Blue to gold: USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) swaps crew in Tema, Ghana

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

The Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) swapped crews after completing a maintenance availability in Tema, Sept. 30, 2022.

The departing “Blue Crew” completed a five-month deployment to the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. From May to October, the crew conducted maritime security operations and built valued relationships with allies and partners from Greece, Seychelles, Somalia, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ghana, Italy, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania.

“The past five months have been incredibly productive and rewarding," said Capt. Chad Graham, blue Crew commanding officer, Hershel “Woody” Williams. "We were able to visit ports that haven’t seen a U.S. ship in over a decade, strengthening communication and relationships throughout the continent of Africa. The crew and I are grateful for the hard work and dedication put forth by our partners, allies, and all helping agencies involved that enabled us to best engage with the countries we visited.”

Throughout the deployment the “Blue Crew” traveled approximately 13,192 nautical miles while operating in the U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) area of operations. Additionally, Hershel “Woody” Williams participated in exercise Phoenix Express 2022 (PE22). Hosted by Tunisia, PE22, consisted of maritime security exchanges throughout the Mediterranean Sea to increase regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities.

The oncoming “Gold Crew” will be led by Capt. Michael Concannon. Having the ability to swap crews from 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 pleased to be back in the Africa area of operations, and are ready to get the ship underway and operate with our allies and partners as we work together toward achieving common objectives,” said Capt. Michael Concannon, gold crew commanding officer, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams. “We look forward to building upon the hard work done by the “Blue Crew” – continuing the pursuit of a safe, secure and prosperous African continent.”

Following the crew swap, the “Gold Crew” will continue promoting maritime security and stability with African partners.

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.

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.