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USS ‘Woody’ arrives in Greece on way to its new Souda Bay homeport

The USS Hershel "Woody" Williams sails in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 17, 2020. The ship arrived in Greece Nov. 1, marking its first stop in the country since the Navy announced Souda Bay will serve as the new home for the expeditionary sea base.

MEGAN ROSES/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 2, 2020

STUTTGART, Germany — The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams has arrived in Greece, marking its first stop in the country since the Navy announced Souda Bay will serve as the new home for the expeditionary sea base.

The “Woody” arrived Sunday at a port in Astakos, Greece, where it is undergoing scheduled maintenance after a 43-day mission in support of U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa said in a statement.

No U.S. Navy warship has been based in Greece in at least 40 years. The military’s decision to boost capabilities in the region comes at a time of increased Russian activity in the eastern Mediterranean and concern about unrest in northern Africa.

During its recent mission, the ship worked alongside other allied vessels and took part in multinational drills and at-sea refueling, the Navy said.

“Our recent operations have shown the importance of our mutual commitment to security and stability off the coast of Africa,” said Capt. David Gray, the ship’s commander.

While the ship undergoes maintenance, sailors will remain on board as a health precaution because of the coronavirus pandemic, NAVEUR said.

The ship is designed to give the military a naval presence around Africa, and can help Marines and special operations units deploy to hot spots as needed.

The ship has two crews, which will turn over periodically to allow the vessel to remain based at Souda Bay. Personnel will rotate to Souda Bay on roughly six-month assignments from their home base in Norfolk, Va.

The 784-foot-long ship features a 52,000 square-foot, four-spot flight deck that helicopters can land on. There also is living space for the crew, which has a complement of about 250.

Souda Bay, positioned on the Greek Island of Crete, has served as a Navy logistics hub since 1969, but it hasn’t permanently hosted any U.S. warships until now.

The decision to base the ship in the country was announced in late September by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to Greece, where the U.S. has deepened military ties during the past year.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

The Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel ''Woody'' Williams sails in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 17, 2020. Hershel "Woody" Williams is on its inaugural deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa area of responsibility in support of maritime missions and special operations.
MEGAN ROSES/U.S. MARINE CORPS