The US Navy will commission its newest Expeditionary Sea Base, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4), during a 10 a.m. EST ceremony Saturday, March 7, in Norfolk, Virginia. The future 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. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia will deliver the commissioning ceremony’s principal address. The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Ms. Tracie Jean Ross and Ms. Travie Jane Ross, ship sponsors and daughters of Hershel “Woody” Williams, will give the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”
The future Hershel “Woody” Williams is 784 feet long and features a 52,000-square-foot flight deck and fuel and equipment storage as well as repair spaces, magazines, and mission-planning spaces. It is able to accommodate up to 250 personnel. The US Navy launched the USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams in 2017, and used it as a test bed for sailing with a Littoral Combat Ship Mine Countermeasure Mission package in September. The $498 million contract for the then-unnamed vessel was awarded to the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO), a division of General Dynamics, in December 2014. Her keel was laid on 2 August 2016, and she was scheduled to be completed in early 2018. The vessel was christened on 21 October 2017, at NASSCO in San Diego. She was delivered to MSC 22 February 2018, and placed into service the same day. She is set to be deployed to the Mediterranean Sea where she can potentially serve both United States African and European Commands.
The ship 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 platform has 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. The reconfigurable mission deck area can store embarked force equipment including mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats.
Built by General Dynamics NASSCO, the Montford Point-class is comprised of five ships across two variants: Expeditionary Transfer Docks and Expeditionary Sea Bases. ESBs can be enhanced to meet special operations force missions through increased communications, aviation and unmanned aircraft system support. National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, commonly referred to as NASSCO, is an American shipbuilding company with three shipyards located in San Diego, Norfolk, and Mayport. It is a division of General Dynamics. The San Diego shipyard specializes in constructing commercial cargo ships and auxiliary vessels for the US Navy and Military Sealift Command; it is the only new-construction shipyard on the West Coast of the United States. The Virginia shipyard primarily performs ship repairs and conversions for the U.S. Navy.