SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A keel laying ceremony for the future USNS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4) was held Aug. 2 in San Diego, California, representing the formal beginning of the ship and recognizing the first joining together of ship components.
The ship is an Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) and the fourth ship of the Montford Point-class. It is optimized to support a variety of maritime-based missions and designed around four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control assets. ESBs also can be enhanced to meet Special Operation Force missions through increased communications, aviation and unmanned aircraft system support.
Chief warrant officer four Hershel "Woody" Williams, the ship’s namesake and the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, was in attendance for the ceremony. The keel was authenticated by Williams’ daughters, Ms. Tracie Jean Ross and Ms. Travie Jane Ross, who etched their initials into the keel plate.
"It is an honor to have CWO4 Williams and his family here to celebrate this milestone," said Capt. Henry Stevens, Strategic and Theater Sealift program manager, Program Executive Office, Ships. "With these platforms based on commercial designs, we’re strengthening our capabilities at sea while doing so in an affordable manner."
Built by General Dynamics NASSCO, the Montford Point-class is comprised of five ships across two variants: Expeditionary Transfer Docks (ESD) and Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESB). USNS Montford Point (ESD 1), USNS John Glenn (ESD 2), and USNS Lewis B Puller (ESB 3) have delivered to the Fleet. ESB 4 is planned to join the Fleet in 2018 with the future procurement of ESB 5 planned for contract award in fiscal year 2017.
The platform has an aviation hangar and flight deck that include two operating spots capable of landing MH-53E equivalent helicopters, accommodations, work spaces, and ordnance storage for an embarked force. The platform will also provide enhanced command and control, communications, computers, and intelligence capabilities to support embarked force mission planning and execution. The reconfigurable mission deck area can store embarked force equipment including mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats.
As one of the Defense Department's largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, boats and craft.