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USS Hershel Woody Williams conducts tracking exercise with Royal Moroccan Navy


The Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) conducted a tracking exercise with the Royal Moroccan Navy in the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 15, 2020.
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The Royal Moroccan Navy's Floreal-class Frigate Mohammed V conducts a training exercise with an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, assigned to the "Ghost Riders" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, and the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4) (not pictured) in the Atlantic Ocean, Sept. 15, 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. (Picture source: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Conner Foy)


The Royal Moroccan Navy frigate Mohammed V worked with the regional Maritime Operations Center to track USS Hershel “Woody” Williams and simulate an interception and boarding off the Moroccan coast. The units conducted the exercise to build partner capacity and exercise Moroccan capabilities to track and intercept vessels of interest within the country’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ).

The exercise also included simulated man overboard scenarios and communication links between the two vessels and an MH-60S helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28. U.S. Sailors with HSC-28 and U.S. Marines with II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF), embarked aboard Hershel “Woody” Williams, executed flight operations in support of the exercise, providing communications, visual imagery, and search and rescue (SAR) operations support.

The U.S. Navy routinely trains with allied and partner nations in order to enhance maneuverability capabilities and interoperability by establishing communication and safety standards that strengthen regional maritime security. This time, no boardings or personnel transfers were conducted during the training evolution as a precaution against COVID-19.

This exercise follows Morocco’s participation in an air interoperability mission on Sept. 7. Four F-16s from the Moroccan Air Force participated in a training evolution alongside U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses and the Arleigh-Burke guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) in the southern Mediterranean Sea.

Additionally, Morocco has hosted multiple major U.S. military exercises, including African Lion, the largest joint military exercise in Africa. Morocco will serve as host for African Lion in FY2021. Other U.S. military exercises Morocco participates in include Flintlock, Phoenix Express, and Obangame Express.

Hershel “Woody” Williams is on a regularly-scheduled deployment to the U.S. Naval Forces Africa area of operations and is a key element in integration between U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, especially Marine aviation and support to amphibious operations.

Other operations and training the ship can conduct include support to Special Operations, command and control, and staging of equipment and other assets, as directed. The ship will be a long-term presence assigned to the U.S. Africa Command mission set and will support security cooperation missions and operations in and around the African continent.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts joint and naval operations in order to support regional allies and partners and U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.