On Monday, the Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet press release said that the U.S. Navy Expeditionary Sea Base, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), departed Naval Station Norfolk, Va. Jul. 27, on the ship’s inaugural deployment following its commissioning in March.
The “Woody” Williams is optimized to support a variety of maritime-based missions and designed around four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support and command and control assets. ESBs can be enhanced to meet special operations force missions through increased communications, aviation and unmanned aircraft system support.
The ESB 4 has an aviation hangar and flight deck that include two operating spots capable of landing MH-53E equivalent helicopters, accommodations, work spaces and ordnance storage for an embarked force. The platform will also provide enhanced command and control, communications, computers and intelligence capabilities to support embarked force mission planning and execution. The reconfigurable mission deck area can store embarked force equipment including mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats.
The ship is named for Marine Corps veteran, Hershel “Woody” Williams, known for his heroism during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. On Oct. 5, 1945, President Harry S. Truman presented Williams with the Medal of Honor during a group ceremony at the White House.
The ship will primarily support a variety of aviation mine countermeasure and special operations missions freeing up amphibious warships and surface combatant ships to be reassigned for more demanding operational missions.
“The Sailors and civilians assigned to the USS Hershel Williams will provide unique and valuable capabilities to the U.S. Naval Forces Africa commander,” said Rear Adm. Robert Katz, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2. “I have no doubt that this ship will make our Navy, and its namesake, proud.”
The commissioning and deployment of Hershel “Woody” Williams follows USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), which is forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations. The 784ft.-long vessel features a 52,000 square-foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, magazines, repair and mission-planning spaces. Its features include a four spot flight deck, a mission deck and hangar, work and living spaces for a couple hundred staff and embarked personnel.
Williams will forward-deploy to the U.S. Naval Forces Africa area of operations. The crew will operate in a Blue/Gold rotation, similar to other Navy platforms, to meet Department of the Navy deployment policies.