The United States Navy Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) arrived in Dakar, Senegal following their participation in Exercise Obangame Express 2022 (OE22), Mar. 17.
Obangame Express is one of three regional African exercises facilitated by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa. The exercise is part of a comprehensive strategy by US Sixth Fleet and US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to provide collaborative opportunities among African forces and international partners to address maritime security concerns, the US Navy said on 10 March.
The exercise consists of classroom demonstrations and maritime events that focus on improving regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices and tactical interdiction expertise that enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
After departing Dakar on Mar. 13 following the opening ceremony of OE22, Hershel “Woody” Williams took part in multiple at-sea boarding exercises with participating partner nations before returning for the closing ceremonies.
“Participating in Obangame Express showcases US, ally and partner nation commitment to the regional maritime security, stability and economic prosperity of our coastal African partners,” said Captain Michael Concannon, commanding officer, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams. “As the first US Navy ship permanently assigned to the AFRICOM area of responsibility, we are excited to work with our partners to improve our communication and information sharing capabilities and increase partner nation capability to improve maritime security and stability. All coastal nations benefit from the free flow of materials and commerce through a safe and secure maritime domain.”
“Having the ability to provide a dynamic at-sea training environment with our embarked U.S. Coast Guard counterparts greatly expands the variety of knowledge gained by all participants,” said Lt. Alek Hoffman, operations officer aboard Hershel “Woody” Williams. “Exercises like Obangame Express provide invaluable interoperability experience that allows all participating nations to learn and share operational and communication strategies to tackle potential real-world threats in the maritime domain.”
During the port visit, Hershel “Woody” Williams will host a reception following the closing ceremony of OE22 before continuing their scheduled deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations.
The embarked U.S. Coast Guard coastguardsmen, assigned to the Tactical Law Enforcement Pacific Detachment 103, were able to implement, execute, and assess a variety of scenarios, including illegal unauthorized fishing, human and arms trafficking, and drug smuggling which are designed to enhance the collective capabilities of the Gulf of Guinea and West African nations.
Hershel “Woody” Williams is the first warship permanently assigned to the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility. 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.
The ESB ship class is a highly flexible platform that may be used across a broad range of military operations. Acting as a mobile sea base, they are part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to support missions assigned.
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For over 70 years, U.S. Sixth Fleet forces have forged strategic relationships with our allies and partners and solidified a foundation of shared values, experiences and vision aimed at preserving security and stability.
Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), OE22 is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness (MDA), information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.