The USNS Hershel "Woody" Williams, which is homeported in Souda Bay, Greece, swapped its crew during a stop at Naval Base Rota in Spain. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
July 13 (UPI) -- The USS Hershel "Woody" Williams is saying goodbye to one crew and welcoming another after four months at sea, the Navy announced on Tuesday.
The "Gold Crew" -- which sailed around Africa from Djibouti, in the Gulf of Aden, to Senegal, on the Atlantic Ocean, from February to June -- is being replaced by its "Blue Crew" at Naval Station Rota in Spain.
The crew swap was conducted after the Williams finished its second deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations on July 9.
"The Blue/Gold Crew system allows us to keep the ship forward deployed," Commanding Officer Capt. David Gray said in a press release.
"The ship can continue to do its mission while half of the crew recharges and gets ready to set sail and do great things again," Gray said.
The gold crew was part of the African Lion mission held in Morocco, Tunisia and Sengal in June.
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper described African Lion as "a key training and exercise event for many, many years," and called Morocco a key U.S. ally in the region.
The Williams also engaged in the Phoenix Express exercise with Tunisia in May in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Williams is a mobile sea base meant for long voyages in support of other military units.
"The ship was built to do this," Gray said. "We do what we need to do to keep the mission going."
The ship, which was commissioned in March 2020, is the first United States vessel permanently based in Africa, engaging in anti-piracy efforts, as well as military efforts, according to the Navy.