USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, Royal Moroccan Navy conduct tracking exercise


The Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) conducted a tracking exercise with the Royal Moroccan Navy in the Atlantic Ocean on 15 September.

The Royal Moroccan Navy frigate Mohammed V worked with the regional Maritime Operations Centre to track Hershel “Woody” Williams and simulate an interception and boarding off the Moroccan coast, the US Navy said. The units conducted the exercise to build partner capacity and exercise Moroccan capabilities to track and intercept vessels of interest within the country’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ).

“We are excited to train alongside our Moroccan counterparts in the waters off the coast of northern Africa,” said Captain David L Gray, commanding officer, Hershel “Woody” Williams, Blue Team. “It enables us to hone our skills and build a stronger partnership.”

The exercise also included simulated man overboard scenarios and communication links between the two vessels and an MH-60S helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28. US Sailors with HSC-28 and US Marines with II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF), embarked aboard Hershel “Woody” Williams, executed flight operations in support of the exercise, providing communications, visual imagery, and search and rescue (SAR) operations support.

The US Navy routinely trains with allied and partner nations in order to enhance manoeuvrability capabilities and interoperability by establishing communication and safety standards that strengthen regional maritime security, it said.

No boardings or personnel transfers were conducted during the training evolution as a precaution against COVID-19.

This exercise follows Morocco’s participation in an air interoperability mission on 7 September. Four F-16s from the Moroccan Air Force participated in a training evolution alongside US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses and the Arleigh-Burke guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) in the southern Mediterranean Sea.

Additionally, Morocco has hosted multiple major US military exercises, including African Lion, the largest joint military exercise in Africa. Morocco will serve as host for African Lion in FY2021. Other US military exercises Morocco participates in include Flintlock, Phoenix Express, and Obangame Express.

Hershel “Woody” Williams is on a regularly-scheduled deployment to the US Naval Forces Africa area of operations and is a key element in integration between US Navy and Marine Corps operations, especially Marine aviation and support to amphibious operations, the US Navy said.

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 ship will be a long-term presence assigned to the US Africa Command mission set and will support security cooperation missions and operations in and around the African continent.