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NEWS | Dec. 10, 2022

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) arrives in Réunion, France

By Mass Communications Specialist Second Class Conner Blake

The Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), arrived at the French island of Reunion, off the coast of Madagascar in the southwestern Indian Ocean, for a scheduled port visit, Dec. 10.

U.S. Navy Sailors and civilian mariners aboard the Hershel “Woody” Williams are visiting the island to strengthen the partnership between France and the U.S. as well as for the ship’s crew to recharge and enjoy the island’s rich culture and heritage.

“I am excited to get out and explore this beautiful island,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class James Johns. “I am especially looking forward to hiking and, of course, getting to see the volcanoes.”

Johns went on to say the crew has been working diligently, conducting operations with Allies and Partners, and it will be great for the Hershel “Woody” Williams Sailors to get a chance to enjoy liberty during this port visit.

The day prior, Hershel “Woody” Williams conducted an interoperability exercise with the French Floréal-class frigate FS Floréal (F 730), off the coast of Reunion.

The exercise consisted of naval communication exercises (NAVCOMEX) between the ships, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) training and small boat operations. Crew members from each ship executed a passenger exchange to visit Sailors on the other ship as well.

“It’s always a joy working with the French Navy as one of our longstanding NATO Allies,” said Capt. Lenard Mitchell, commanding officer, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams Gold crew. “These interoperability exercises strengthen our maritime domain awareness, demonstrate our commitment to the region and contribute directly to our national security.”

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, counter-narcotic, 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.