USS Hershel “Woody” Williams pulls into port at Libreville, Gabon, on May 5, 2024, to support the Obangame Express exercise.

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams pulls into port at Libreville, Gabon, on May 5, 2024, to support the Obangame Express exercise. (Takisha Miller/U.S. Africa Command)

A U.S. Navy ship participating in a military exercise in the Gulf of Guinea ran aground this week as it was leaving a port in West Africa.

The expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams got stuck around 1 p.m. Thursday, shortly after leaving Libreville, Gabon, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa said Friday in a statement.

The ship broke free at about 5 p.m. Thursday at high tide, said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Tross, a spokesman for NAVEUR-AF.

There were no injuries or major damage, Tross said.

The Navy did not say how far the ship had transited after leaving the port before running aground or if it was accompanied by a tugboat at the time. It also wasn’t stated whether a pilot, often required to help a ship navigate ports, was on board.

A pilot was aboard Woody Williams when it came into the port Sunday. Two tugboats helped the ship, which is slightly shorter than an aircraft carrier in length, through the port and into a berthing.

The Navy said it wouldn’t release further details due to an ongoing investigation.

The ship uses a hybrid crew of about 50 civilian mariners responsible for navigation and maintenance. About three civilians, including a navigator and lookout, typically man the bridge. The ship mostly relies on an automated system for navigation, which can be disengaged if needed.

A complement of about 100 Navy sailors man flight and other operations.

Woody Williams was in Libreville for the kickoff of the multinational Obangame Express exercise.

It wasn’t clear if the grounding would impact the ship’s participation. It was scheduled to participate in testing of a surface drone, among other activities.

Woody Williams is the only Navy ship assigned to U.S. Africa Command. Its homeport is at Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete.

author picture
Alison Bath reports on the U.S. Navy, including U.S. 6th Fleet, in Europe and Africa. She has reported for a variety of publications in Montana, Nevada and Louisiana, and served as editor of newspapers in Louisiana, Oregon and Washington.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now