May 22, 2024

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams Arrives in Gabon to Launch Multinational Naval Exercise

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams

The Gold 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) have docked in Libreville, Gabon, commencing a scheduled port visit to inaugurate the multinational naval exercise Obangame Express 2024.

This strategic port visit, integral to the exercise, serves to fortify the collaborative partnership between the United States and Gabon, aimed at fostering stability, security, and prosperity within the Gulf of Guinea and the broader West African region. Additionally, the ship will host a reception for esteemed guests, marking the commencement of the exercise, and providing an opportunity for Sailors and CIVMARs aboard the Hershel “Woody” Williams to immerse themselves in Gabon’s vibrant culture, rich history, and warm hospitality, emblematic of its role as a critical regional ally.

Following the port visit in Libreville, Gabon, the Hershel “Woody” Williams is set to join the at-sea segment of Obangame Express, engaging with over 30 participating nations. Activities during the exercise will encompass Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) operations, Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) launches and recoveries, and personnel exchange training evolutions.

Captain Lenard Mitchell, commanding officer of USS Hershel “Woody” Williams Gold MILCREW, underscored the significance of such port visits, stating, “The port visit is the perfect opportunity to strengthen relationships with our partners. The US Navy’s unwavering support for Obangame Express underscores our enduring commitment to the region, while these engagements highlight the potential for future interoperability.”

Post the conclusion of Exercise Obangame Express 2024, Hershel “Woody” Williams will continue its deployment across the African continent, seizing opportunities to collaborate with regional allies and partners in a myriad of exercises and operations geared towards enhancing maritime security, and reinforcing our collective dedication to promoting regional security and stability.

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, forward deployed to Souda Bay, Greece, serves as the inaugural U.S. Navy ship permanently assigned to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of responsibility. Equipped to undertake expeditionary missions, counter piracy operations, maritime security patrols, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, the ship operates with both blue and gold crews, facilitating sustained deployments across the AFRICOM theater.

For over eight decades, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has cultivated strategic partnerships with allies and partners, leveraging a bedrock of shared values to safeguard security and stability.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF oversees U.S. naval forces within the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. The U.S. Sixth Fleet, permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, employs maritime forces across a spectrum of joint and naval operations.

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