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NEWS | Feb. 29, 2024

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) begins African deployment

By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs

The Blue military crew (MILCREW) of the Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) and the ship’s Military Sealift Command Civilian Mariners (CIVMARs) departed Naval Station Rota, Spain to begin a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) and U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations, today.

Prior to arriving in Rota, the ship completed a Mid-Term Availability (MTA) at the Viktor Lenac shipyard in Rijeka, Croatia. Maintenance work during the MTA included Safety of Life At Sea equipment such as communication, fire safety, and navigation, as well as upgrading decking and coatings to increase safety, especially in adverse operating conditions.

While deployed in the NAVAF area of operations, Hershel “Woody” Williams will participate in multiple bilateral and multilateral operations, activities, and exercises with international partners and Allies.

“Our crew is excited to begin this deployment and to sail alongside our partners and Allies across the African continent,” said Capt. Amy Lindahl, commanding officer of Hershel “Woody” Williams Blue MILCREW. “Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams’ deployment to Africa underscores our commitment to the region, and we look forward to working with our counterparts to ensure security, safety, and freedom of navigation.”

Hershel “Woody” Williams completed its most recent deployment to the African continent in fall and winter 2023 with the Gold MILCREW at the helm. During that deployment, the ship spent a significant amount of time in the Gulf of Guinea and in Western Africa, demonstrating the U.S. Navy’s enduring presence in the region. The ship also conducted port visits to Lomé, Togo, in September 2023, and Tema, Ghana in October.

A team of U.S. Marines embarked aboard the ship during their most recent deployment, as well. While underway with the ship, Marine Corps Combat Engineers helped build a youth center in Ain Ghellal, Tunisia, and embarked Marines provided training to Senegalese Maritime Interceptors during Exercise Grand African NEMO 2023 to combat drug smuggling and other illicit activity.

“Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams continues to serve as a tangible example of the U.S. Navy’s commitment to working with our African partners to address regional challenges and maritime threats, and I commend the crews for their dedication to carrying out this important mission,” said Rear Adm. Chase Patrick, deputy commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet. “Just as they have done in previous deployments, these crews will bolster our partnerships, enhance regional collaboration, and strengthen maritime security in African waters.”

Hershel “Woody” Williams is forward deployed to Souda Bay, Greece and serves as the first U.S. Navy ship assigned to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of responsibility. The ship is capable of conducting expeditionary missions, counter piracy, maritime security, and humanitarian and disaster relief operations. Hershel "Woody" Williams’ unique capabilities are part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to support global missions. The ship operates with blue and gold crews, allowing it to remain continually deployed throughout AFRICOM.

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.