Local veteran to be honored by commissioning of U.S. Navy base

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CHESAPEAKE BAY (Sept. 15, 2019) Capt. David Gray, the military detachment officer in charge of the Military Sealift Command expeditionary sea base USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (ESB 4), gives guidance and direction to Sailors while leading a training evolution aboard one of the ship’s ridged-hull inflatable boats while the ship was at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay, Sept. 15, 2019. Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams is conducting mine countermeasures equipment testing. (U.S. Navy photo by Bill Mesta/Released)

NORFOLK, V.a. – The U.S. Navy will commission a Military Sealift Command’s Expeditionary sea-base ship this Saturday in honor of a Marion County veteran.

On March 7, at 10 a.m., a Commissioning Ceremony will be held at the Half Moone Cruise Terminal in Norfolk, Virginia on the ship to honor Officer Marine Corps veteran Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams. Williams is known for his heroism in the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. He is also the last living Medal of Honor recipient from that battle.

Officer Marine Corps veteran Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.

The USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) was first delivered to the U.S. Navy’s Military Sea lift Command in February of 2018. The ship is the Navy’s second purpose-built expeditionary sea base (ESB) will be converted from a United States Naval Ship (USNS) to a United States Ship (USS) on Saturday.

Bases like the Williams are said to be platforms that may be used across a large range of military operations. Officials explained that the commissioning of the specific class of ship will allow for greater mission flexibility and is consistent with international law.

The ship is approximately 784 ft. long and features 52,000 square-foot flight deck, fuel and equipment storage areas, repair spaces, magazines and spaces dedicated to planning missions. It can also accommodate up to 250 personnel.

During the ceremony, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, James Geurts will place the ship in commission, and Captain David Gray will assume command.

Officer Williams will then set the first watch and his daughters, the ship’s sponsors, will call for the crew to ‘man the ship and bring her to life.’    

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