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NEWS | Nov. 30, 2022

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams Changes Command

By MC2 Connor Blake

Capt. Lenard Mitchell relieved Capt. Michael Concannon as commanding officer of the expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), during a ceremony aboard the ship November 25.

Concannon was the first Hershel “Woody” Williams Gold MILCREW Commanding Officer.  On board Hershel “Woody” Williams for 28 months, his crew sailed over 20,000 miles during three U.S. Sixth Fleet and AFRICOM area of responsibility deployments.  His crew was awarded all warfare excellence awards and was the recipient of the retention excellence award for two consecutive years.

“It has been an honor to be in command of the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams for the past two and a half years,” said Concannon.  “I have had the privilege to circumnavigate the African continent, conduct dozens of port visits and conduct several multinational exercises and operations in support of our African partners.  A persistent presence in this area of operations, we have done our best to improve partner nation stability and security.  I have had the distinct pleasure to work with exceptional Sailors and civilian mariners and have received incredible support from the Sixth Fleet and AFRICOM staffs that have ensured our mission success.  This has been an incredible tour of duty and I am extremely proud of our accomplishments.”

Concannon leaves the ship to join the U.S. Navy Board of Inspections and Survey as Director of Surface Trials.

Mitchell, a native of Canton, Mississippi and a graduate of Southern University, assumes command after serving as the Constellation class frigate (FFG 62) branch head on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations (N96).  His previous sea tours include Tomahawk Strike Officer and Combat Systems Officer in USS Deyo, Weapons Officer and Combat Systems Officer in USS Gettysburg and executive officer and commanding officer in USS Little Rock (LCS 9). As an enlisted Sailor, he also served as an Operations Specialist in USS Bainbridge (CGN 25).

“I am humbled to be the next Commanding Officer of USS Hershel “Woody” Williams,” said Mitchell.  “This ship and crew embody the spirit of its namesake, and I am honored to be a part of this great legacy.” 

Mitchell will serve as the second Gold MILCREW Commanding Officer and the fourth overall commanding officer since the ship was commissioned in Norfolk, Virginia March 7, 2020.

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. ESBs are 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.

Task Force 63 is headquartered at Naples, Italy. Composed of oilers, provision ships, and repair ships, its mission is the delivery of supplies at sea, and effecting repairs to other ships and equipment of the Fleet. Commander, Task Force 63 (CTF-63) is the operational commander of all the U.S. 6th Fleet air and sea logistics.

For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our 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.