Below is a news release from Atlantic Area. This is more evidence of the Coast Guard’s interest in helping the nations of West Aftrica, particularly those around the Gulf of Guinea. The unit used for the mission is a bit unusual. USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) is a Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary sea base.
These ships are unusual in that they have small hybrid civilian/regular Navy crews. They are commissioned Navy ships, not MSC. They might be thought of as large mobile warehouses. They have a lot of space and equipment for moving things around. They are doing a lot of work with unmanned systems and mine countermeasures. They are also expected to be useful in disaster response. They have a large flight deck and hangar. You could probably base four Coast Guard MH-60s on one of them. In wartime, they might provide air cover for convoys, much like the escort carriers of WWII (not that the Navy has floated this idea). How they ultimately get used, is still open to imaginative thinking.
The observed pattern suggests, one ESB will be assigned to each of the six active numbered Fleet Commands with specific geographic responsibilties, with the probable exception of 2nd Fleet (Western North Atlantic Ocean). Currently five Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESB) are planned. Three have been delivered and two are on the way.
- USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) is assigned to 5th Fleet
- USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) is assigned to 6th Fleet
- USS Miguel Keith (ESB-5) is assigned to 7th Fleet
The Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces SW Asia (PATFORSWA) is almost certainly already working with USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3), based in Bahrain.
USS Miguel Keith (ESB-5) is based in Saipan, very near the three Webber class FRCs and buoy tender based in Guam. She may be helpful in Coast Guard efforts in the Western Pacific.
The two yet to be delivered ESBs may also be working with the Coast Guard. An ESB assigned to 4th Fleet could assist the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction efforts in the Eastern Pacific and a 3rd Fleet ESB could help IUU and other law enforcement and capacity building efforts in the South Central Pacific. They might serve as mother ships for patrol craft or as bases for UAVs.
U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
U.S. Coast Guard presents USS Hershel “Woody” Williams crew with the Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon
Editors’ Note: To view more or download high-resolution imagery, click on the photos above.
PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Vice Adm. Kevin E. Lunday, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, presented the Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon to the crew of USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) during a ceremony at the Portsmouth Lightship, Monday, Aug. 22, 2022.
The Coast Guard Special Operations Service Ribbon is awarded to personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces who participated in Coast Guard operations of a special nature, not involving combat.
Capt. Michael Concannon, gold crew commanding officer of Hershel “Woody” Williams, accepted the award on behalf of the crew.
In April, Hershel “Woody” Williams completed a deployment in support of U.S. Naval Forces Africa, conducting a wide range of operations including counter-narcotics and combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the waters off of Africa’s Atlantic coast.
During the deployment, Hershel “Woody” Williams operated with an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment as well as maritime forces from Cabo Verde and Sierra Leone. With the support of the embarked partner forces, U.S. personnel were able to assist with law enforcement operations within each partner’s respective territorial waters.
The joint and combined U.S.-African team conducted a counter-narcotics boarding of a fishing vessel, which resulted in the seizure of approximately 6,000 kilograms of suspected cocaine and transferred seven suspects to Cabo Verde officials.
Additionally, Hershel “Woody” Williams and the embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment supported the interdiction of a fishing vessel illegally operating within the exclusive economic zone of Sierra Leone. The vessel and its crew were escorted into port and transferred to Sierra Leonean authorities.
“I’m proud of the superior operations and mission outcomes by the crew of USS Hershel “Woody” Williams,” said Lunday. “This collaboration between the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and our African partners highlights the capabilities of America’s maritime services and our ability to aid partner nations as they seek to build their maritime security and economic prosperity.”
Coast Guard tactical law enforcement teams are made up of deployable law enforcement detachments, which provide specialized law enforcement and maritime security capabilities to enforce U.S. laws across the full spectrum of maritime response situations, as well as maritime security augmentation to designated elements of other U.S. government agencies in support of Coast Guard, national security, and law enforcement operations in the maritime environment.
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.
Deployment of Hershel “Woody” Williams by U.S. Naval Forces Africa to Africa’s Atlantic coast demonstrates a commitment to helping our African partners improve security. The ship is an expeditionary sea base, which is capable of conducting counter-piracy, maritime security, and humanitarian and disaster relief operations, as well as supporting a variety of rotary wing aircraft. Acting as a mobile sea base, Hershel “Woody” Williams is a part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to support global missions.
For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia, oversees all Coast Guard operations east of the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf, spanning across five Coast Guard districts and 40 states.
For information on how to join the U.S. Coast Guard, visit www.GoCoastGuard.com to learn more about active duty and reserve officer and enlisted opportunities. Information on how to apply to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy can be found at www.uscga.edu.
The ESBs were meant to be AFSBs operated by MSC hybrid crews. Then someone wrung the bell on them as not being armed naval auxiliaries. So they go commissioned. There huge cost were over a Half-Billion Bucks. I would look up their operating costs with navy crews.
What should known about the ESB is they are meant to support aviation operations well and not much else. They have accomodations, not sure what sort of medical facility is installed? They are slow hardly over 15 knots, and as such are damn big targets.
Insufficient craneage, hard to get at storerooms, no real boat M&R capability, limited cargo storage tied to TEUs. They do have a lot of tankage for POL products, not sure what sort of pumps and piping systems?
I would NOT use them as support ships for anything other that aviation missions.
Be careful what you wish for.
They are what we have.