U.S. Navy Commissions Newest Expeditionary Sea Base

Mike Schuler
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March 10, 2020
The Military Sealift Command expeditionary sea base USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (ESB 4) at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay, Sept. 15, 2019. U.S. Navy photo by Bill Mesta/Released

The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Expeditionary Sea Base, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), during ceremony in Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday.

The ESBs are one of two variants at the heart of the U.S. Navy’s mobile “seabasing” capability. They are built as a mobile base to support a variety of maritime-based missions and are designed around four core capabilities of aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control assets. 

Built by General Dynamics NASSCO, the Montford Point-class is comprised of five planned ships across two variants: Expeditionary Sea Bases and Expeditionary Transfer Docks (ESDs). The latter were formerly called the Mobile Landing Platform.

The ESB platform has an aviation hangar and flight deck that includes four hangers capable of landing V-22 and MH-53E equivalent helicopters, accommodations, work spaces, and ordnance storage. A reconfigurable mission deck equipment can store equipment such as mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats.

The platform can also provide unmanned aviation vehicle operations, as well as enhanced command and control, communications, computers, and intelligence capabilities to support an embarked force with mission planning and execution.

The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is named in honor 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.

“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.”

The is now the second ESB variant in Montford Point-class following the 2017 delivery of the USS Lewis B. Puller. The first Expeditionary Transfer Docks, USNS Montford Point (ESD-1) and USNS John Glenn (ESD-2), were delivered in 2013.

The Hershel “Woody” Williams will be crewed by a combination of civil service mariners and U.S. Navy Sailors.

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