The US Navy commissioned its fourth expeditionary sea base, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), in a ceremony in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 7.
The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is the first ship to bear the name of Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Four Hershel Woodrow Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient recognized for heroism at the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.
ESB 4 enters service with an aviation hangar and flight deck that include four operating spots capable of landing V-22 and MH-53E equivalent helicopters, accommodations, work spaces, and ordnance storage for an embarked force.
The platform will also provide unmanned aviation vehicle operations, enhanced command and control, communications, computers, and intelligence capabilities to support embarked force mission planning and execution.
USS Hershel “Woody” Williams will be capable of facilitating missions ranging from airborne mine countermeasures operations to special operations forces support.
“This ship honors a man who dedicated his life to service — heroic service as a Marine, and continued service to his fellow veterans,” said Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. “This dedication will live on in USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams as the ship is deployed around the world bringing additional capability to our growing fleet. The ceremony on Saturday will also represent the dedication to service demonstrated by the men and women who worked tirelessly to build this ship and their commitment to quality and innovation.”
Built by General Dynamics NASSCO, the Montford Point class is comprised of five ships across two variants: two expeditionary transfer docks and three expeditionary sea bases. The ESB were initially envisioned as support ships, bearing the USNS designation and having a mixed civilian and US Navy crew. The navy changed its mind in 2017, when it commissioned USS Lewis B. Puller (formerly USNS Lewis B. Puller) in order to be able to conduct military operations directly from the ship in line with international laws of armed conflict.