USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, First ESB to Complete Voyage Repair in South Africa

During the scheduled port visit, Hershel “Woody” Williams completed a 14-day maintenance period in Cape Town’s Cruise Terminal. The ship received preventative and preservative repairs to the flight deck safety nets, mission deck, freeboard and superstructure, as well as the insulation and lighting fixtures.


“As the only ship permanently assigned to AFRICOM, much of what we do is geared toward continuing to build ties with partner nations in Africa, and exploring how we can work together”
By U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet CAPE TOWN, South Africa Oct 14, 2021
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USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is the first Expeditionary Sea Base to complete a voyage repair availability in South Africa, Oct. 11, 2021.

South Africa is an important partner of the United States in promoting peace and security in Africa. Both South Africa and the United States rely on maritime shipping, and free and secure sea-lanes for economic prosperity.

During the scheduled port visit, Hershel “Woody” Williams completed a 14-day maintenance period in Cape Town’s cruise terminal. The ship received preventative and preservative repairs to the flight deck safety nets, mission deck, freeboard and superstructure, as well as the insulation and lighting fixtures.

The VR work packages, comprised of two separate work packages, one for Forward Deployed Regional Maintenance Center and one for Military Sealift Command including varying work items for each, solicited to multiple potential contractors within U.S. Africa Command area of operations, was completed on, or ahead of schedule. This marked a milestone for maintenance in new and unchartered territory for the U.S. Navy.

This maintenance availability also prompted the first Naval Logistic Support flight into Cape Town, South Africa, in support of a U.S. Naval War Ship. The last military flight to land in Cape Town was in 2003.

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet Readiness and Logistics team and U.S. Embassy to Pretoria, South Africa, coordinated this critical logistic support through the Strategic Airlift Capability's multinational Heavy Airlift Wing, based out of Papa Air Base, Hungary. The C-17A Globemaster III with a Hungarian insignia owned by the 12 Member Nations of the Strategic Airlift Capability, is operated by 12 NATO and Partnership for Peace nations including the United States under the Strategic Airlift Capability program." 

"I am so proud of the incredible cooperative efforts between our partners in South Africa, HAW, and our team to enable this milestone resupply flight for HWW,” said Rear Adm. Michael Curran, Readiness and Logistics, NAVEUR-NAVAF. “The accomplishment of the mission and level of coordination between the teams was nothing short of outstanding. This flight demonstrated what can be accomplished with our friends when we bring our collective capabilities together.”

The HAW is the first multinational military airlift unit in the world that provides worldwide airlift response capability for the 12 member nations. Operations can include national support to the European Union, NATO, United Nations operations, or national military, peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations. In this case, the military flight carried approximately 26,000 pounds of critical medical and general material as well as mail and other items required to continue mission tasking in the southern border of the U.S. Africa Command and NAVAF area of operations. 

Hershel “Woody” Williams previously visited Cape Town in February to resupply fuel and promote maritime security through a persistent presence in African waters. Hershel “Woody” Williams is the first warship permanently assigned to the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility.

 “As the only ship permanently assigned to AFRICOM, much of what we do is geared toward continuing to build ties with partner nations in Africa, and exploring how we can work together,” said Capt. Chad Graham, commanding officer, Hershel “Woody” Williams. “This maintenance period was a perfect example of that, where we received mission critical repairs from a South African company, and benefitted the local economy.”

The ESB ship class is a highly flexible platform that may be used across a broad range of military operations. Acting as a mobile sea base, they are part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to support missions assigned.

The U.S. shares a common interest with African partner nations in ensuring security, safety, and freedom of navigation on the waters surrounding the continent, because these waters are critical for Africa’s prosperity and access to global markets.

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