July 28 (UPI) -- The Blue Crew of the USS Hershel "Woody" Williams departed Naval Station Norkfolk for its inaugural deployment Monday.
The ship will forward-deploy to the U.S. Naval Forces Africa area of operations, according to the Navy, and will conduct missions that include counter-piracy and partner-training operations as well as special operations forces support.
"As the commanding officer of the 'Woody' Williams' Blue Crew, I can tell you that we are excited to embark on the ship's first deployment," Capt. David Gray, commanding officer of the USS Hershel "Woody" Williams Blue Crew, said in a statement.
"For the majority of our Sailors, this will be their first deployment, and I can't think of a more exciting area to operate in," Gray said. "We look forward to our deployment in U.S. Naval Forces Africa."
Commissioned in March and named for Marine Corps veteran and World War II hero Hershel "Woody" Williams, the ship is designed around four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging and command and control assets.
Originally commissioned as the USNS Williams, the ship was redesignated as a warship, meaning it can legally carry out offensive military operations, such as allowing Marines or Navy SEALs to launch attacks directly from the ship. A USNS ship can only engage in combat if it is defending itself.
The vessel will operate with a hybrid crew of 100 sailors and 44 civilian mariners.
According to the Navy, the vessel will primarily support a variety of aviation mine countermeasure and special operations missions freeing up amphibious warships and surface combatant ships.
"The sailors and civilians assigned to the USS Hershel Williams will provide unique and valuable capabilities to the U.S. Naval Forces Africa commander," said Rear Adm. Robert Katz, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2. "I have no doubt that this ship will make our Navy, and its namesake, proud."