The following news release was issued by the U.S. Navy. It can also be viewed here.
The USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams is partially crewed by SIU Government Services members.
USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams Makes Mine Counter Measure History
The crew of Military Sealift Command’s expeditionary sea base USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (ESB 4) completed a historic underway by pulling into Naval Station Norfolk, Sep. 16.
While away from the naval station, the Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams performed the first ever launch and recovery of an unmanned surface vessel (USV) and an unmanned underwater vessel (UUV), Knightfish, from an ESB, Sept. 14.
The USV and UUVs are mine counter measure capabilities and the ship went to sea to determine the feasibility of operating these vessels from an ESB.
“Considering the contested environments which our ships sail in, counter-mine capabilities are very important because we have to be able to keep the enemy at bay,” said Capt. David Gray, the USNS Hershel Woody William officer in charge and the ship’s prospective commanding officer. “Mines of today are very inexpensive to make. Our adversaries can produce mines for a few hundred dollars and inflict a tremendous loss of life while causing millions of dollars of damage. So we need the assets out there to detect and destroy these threats ahead of time, and keep the worlds shipping lanes open.”
A team of Sailors, civil service mariners (CIVMAR) and civilian technical experts carried out the task of launching and recovering the USV and UUV into the Chesapeake Bay, Sept. 14-15. The two-day USV and UUV evolution required shipboard personnel to transport each unmanned vessel from its storage area inside the mission bay to the designated launching point next to the side of the ship. The ship’s crane was used to lift each unmanned vessel off the deck and into the ocean. Once each vessel was launched, they were recovered from the ocean with the ship’s crane and returned to the mission deck. In total, the USV was successfully launched and recovered twice and the UUV four times over the two-day period.
According to Gray, the Sept. 14 evolution was the first time a USV has been successfully launched and recovered from any Naval ship. USVs have been launched from other Navy ships, but not recovered, as of yet.
After the conclusion of the evolutions, Capt. George McCarthy, USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ William’s master, recognized the crew’s efforts during the underway.
“Thank you to everyone aboard the vessel for conducting a safe, efficient and effective evolution here over the last couple of days,” he said. “Most importantly, we were able to successfully demonstrate the concepts we set out to.”
“There was a lot of hard work across the spectrum of people aboard the ship; civilians, Sailors and CIVMARs,” he added. “My thanks to everyone for a great job.”
The Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams is the second ESB configured for mine counter measure missions and a ship designed to facilitate expeditionary forces’ missions.
“USNS Hershel “Woody Williams has two primary missions; airborne mine counter measures and support of special operations forces,” according to Gray.
The ship is crewed by a hybrid team of civil service mariners and Sailors who operate and maintain a large flight deck, berthing and messing accommodations and provide command and control support for embarked forces.
“We currently have 101 Sailors who make up the ship’s military detachment,” said Gray. “Some of the Sailor specialties we have include aviation specialist, information technology experts, culinary specialist and deck department personnel, who provide support for our embarked personnel.”
Approximately 35 CIVMARs serve aboard Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams and their responsibilities include navigation, ship’s propulsion and deck services.
The Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams is scheduled to be commissioned as a combatant vessel in the Spring of 2019, at which time Capt. Gray will become the ship’s commanding officer. After the ship’s commissioning, it will be deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet.
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