Aug. 13, 2020 – The Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) arrived in port Naples, Italy, for a routine logistics stop, Aug. 13, 2020.
The ship, which is the second of a new class of sea-basing ships, departed Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, on July 27, for its inaugural deployment following its commissioning in March. Its crew consists of a mix of U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners.
At 784 feet long (230 meters), the ship features a 52,000 square-feet (4,830 square-meter) four-spot flight deck. Further features include a hangar, mission deck, and work and living spaces for hundreds of embarked personnel. Additionally, for the U.S. Navy crew, there is a Blue Crew and a Gold Crew, which will turn over periodically to allow for continuity while the ship remains forward deployed.
“The Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams, and the entire ESB class, are on the leading edge of naval integration,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, “In this complex maritime environment, a ship like this enables options to project power with a persistent presence. The ship is ideal for missions in this theater as it can readily integrate with the Marines and our allies and partners in many of our operations throughout the region at varying levels of complexity.”
Black added that ship will be a long-term presence assigned to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) mission set and will support security cooperation missions and operations in and around the African continent.
“The real strength of the Hershel Woody Williams is the flexibility of this naval platform. This versatile Expeditionary Sea Base can support naval aviation, command and control, and deploy Marines and other special operations forces going ashore,” added Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary, commander, U.S. Marines Forces Europe and Africa. “As the Marine Corps works toward further integration with the U.S. Navy, ships like the Hershel Woody Williams are an important part of making our combined naval campaigns a reality.”
Neary also highlighted the ship’s namesake, Marine Corps veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams, known for his heroism during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on Oct. 5, 1945.
“The crew of the USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams has worked hard preparing for this deployment and we’re excited to work with our many allies and partners and support operations throughout U.S. 6th Fleet,” said Capt. David L. Gray, commanding officer, USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams, Blue Crew. “We’re truly thankful to our Italian allies, hosting our first visit and allowing us to pull in under the shadow of Vesuvius in beautiful Naples.”
Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. Naval Forces Africa area of responsibility.