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USS Hershel conducts Naval drills with North African countries.

| 2021

According to information published by US Navy on May 28, 2021, USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB-4) conducts interoperability exercises with Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, and Tunisian Naval forces during the at-sea portion of exercise Phoenix Express in the Mediterranean Sea.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary mobile base USS Hershel (Picture source: U.S. Department of Defense)

Exercise Phoenix Express, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.

The at-sea portion of the exercise will test North African, European, and U.S. maritime forces’ abilities to respond to irregular migration and combat illicit trafficking and the movement of illegal goods and materials.

The eleven nations participating in PE21 are Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States.

Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three regional maritime exercises executed by NAVAF as part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.

Hershel “Woody” Williams is home ported in Souda Bay, Greece, and conducts U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) missions in the Mediterranean and the waters around East, South, and West Africa to include the Gulf of Guinea, operating with regional partners. The ship will be a long-term presence assigned to the AFRICOM mission set and will support security cooperation missions and operations in and around the African continent.

The USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB-4) is a Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary sea base, currently in service with the United States Navy. The ship was commissioned by the Navy in Norfolk, Virginia on 7 March 2020. An expeditionary sea base is designed to be a semi-submersible, flexible, modular platform providing the US Navy with the capability to perform large-scale logistics movements such as the transfer of vehicles and equipment from sea to shore.

The expeditionary mobile base is configured with a 52,000 square-foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage, repair spaces, magazines, mission planning spaces and accommodations for up to 250 personnel. The ship is capable of supporting multiple missions including Air Mine Counter Measures (AMCM), counter-piracy operations, maritime security operations, humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions and U.S. Marine Corps crisis response. It can also support MH-53 and MH-60 helicopters and will be upgraded to support MV-22 tiltrotor aircraft.

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