The Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) arrived at Naval Station Rota, Spain, on 22 October, marking the end of a 43-day underway operating alongside partners and Allies off the coast of Africa.
While operating in the US Africa Command area of operations, the ship conducted six maritime evolutions alongside African partner nations, participated in a major multinational exercise, and conducted refuelling operations, the US Navy said.
Most recently, Hershel “Woody” Williams joined NATO Allies and African partner nations from for the French-led exercise Grand African Navy Exercise for Maritime Operations (NEMO) 2020, between 5 and 9 October. The week-long exercise involved more than 30 ships and aircraft from 14 different nations, which conducted more than 20 scenarios on important maritime issues such as combatting illegal fishing, piracy, drug trafficking, pollution, and rescue at sea.
Grand African NEMO 2020 participants included Benin, Brazil, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Italy, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and the United States.
Captain David L Gray, commanding officer, Hershel “Woody” Williams, Blue Crew, said that the time underway in such a vital area of operations was an incredibly rewarding experience.
“It was very exciting to have been part of the French-led Grand African NEMO and to be invited back next year,” said Gray. “It has been an absolute honour to be a part of our increased US presence in Africa working and training alongside our partners and Allies.”
While in the AFRICOM area of operations, Hershel “Woody” Williams also conducted:
A tracking exercise (TRACKEX) with the Royal Moroccan Navy’s Floreal-class Frigate Mohammad V;
A communication exercise with Cabo Verde;
A passing exercise (PASSEX) with Senegalese Navy patrol vessel Kedougou (OPV 45);
A TRACKEX and PHOTOEX with the Ivoirian Navy ships OPV C.F. Sekongo and OPV L’Emergence, the Italian Navy Frigate Federico Martinengo (F 596), and the Abidjan Maritime Operations Centre;
A TRACKEX with the Italian Navy frigate ITS Federico Martinengo (F 596) and the Ghanaian Navy Snake-class patrol vessel Ehwor (P 37), including joint flight operations between an Italian NH 90 helicopter US MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, and a brief stop for resupply off the coast of Tema, Ghana, with the Ghanaian oil tanker African Runner and Ghanaian tugs; and
A TRACKEX with the Nigerian Navy NNS Prosperity (P 21), NNS Okpabana (F 93) NNS Nguru (P 187), and the NNS Ekulu (P 188) and the Lagos Maritime Operations Centre; a UAV demonstration with the Nigerian Navy; and manoeuvres and honours with Nigerian Navy frigate NNS Okpabana (F93) and Nigerian Navy patrol boats NNS Prosperity (P 21), NNS Nguru (P 187), and NNS Ekulu (P 187) in honour of Nigerian Independence Day.
Other operations and training the ship can conduct include support to Special Operations, command and control, and staging of equipment and other assets, as directed.
“The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams enables US forces to execute a multitude of capabilities, including in support of theatre security operations, maritime domain awareness, and a full spectrum of maritime operations from non-combatant evacuation to high-end warfare,” said Gray.
Hershel “Woody” Williams is homeported in Souda Bay, Greece, and conducts Africa Command missions in the Mediterranean and the waters around East, South, and West Africa to include the Gulf of Guinea, operating with regional partners. The ship will be a long-term presence assigned to the Africa Command mission set and will support security cooperation missions and operations in and around the African continent, the US Navy said.