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The drug interdiction was obviously a big deal. Not only did the Chief of Naval Operations Tweet out a BZ to the HWW Gold crew, news outlets around the world reported about the exploits that included apprehending seven traffickers and seizing a staggering 13,228 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $350 million street value.
Significant as it was, the ballyhooed bust was hardly the only measure behind the Hershel “Woody” Williams’ Gold Crew earning the special operations ribbon.
The award, presented on August 22 by Lunday, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, at United States Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, recognized HWW’s overall exceptional support of several tri-maritime service operations from February to April 2022. In addition to the counter-narcotics, additional efforts included maritime security operations (MSO) as well as the crew’s corporate energies put forth to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing off the west coast of Africa.
The ship also participated in Obangame Express 22. Taking place on West African seas, this year’s iteration was a six-day, 32-nation exercise – the largest ever multinational maritime exercise – designed to improve regional cooperation by focusing on maritime domain awareness, information-sharing, and tactical interdiction across all participant militaries.
Upon completion of the exercise, HWW Gold conducted MSO patrols off the coast of West Africa with African partner nations and interdicted a foreign-flagged vessel engaged in IUU fishing. As a result, $6 million in fines were issued.
Gold Crew commanding officer, Capt. Michael Concannon, expressed excitement for his crew as he said the distinction is not often awarded to maritime units.
“The crew and I appreciate the Coast Guard’s recognition for the successful tri-maritime operations conducted off the coast of Africa,” Concannon said. “The successes from Obangame Express and the MSO patrols go a long way to show African partners that the U.S. is committed to regional stability assistance.”
Established on July 1, 1987, the United States Coast Guard Medals and Awards Manual says the SOS Ribbon is awarded to U.S. armed forces members who participated in a major Coast Guard operation of a special nature not involving combat.
To be eligible, SOS Ribbon nominees must be attached to a participating unit and have to be present no less than 21 non-consecutive days during the period the unit is engaged in the special operation. If the operation is less than 21 days, personnel must serve the entire duration. Additionally, the tactical commander within the appropriate area commander’s area of responsibility must specifically recommend SOS Ribbon candidates.
Expeditionary sea base ships are critical in supporting the deployment of forces and supplies to provide prepositioned equipment and sustainment with flexible distribution
As part of Expeditionary Strike Group 2, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is the second Lewis B. Puller-class ESB and is currently forward deployed to Souda Bay, Greece. The first U.S. Navy ship assigned to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of operations, HWW is a highly flexible platform that consists of both U.S. Navy Sailors and Military Sealift Command civilian mariners and may be used across a broad range of military operations supporting multiple operational phases.
For more information about Expeditionary Strike Group Two or USS Hershel "Woody" Williams please visit: https://www.c2f.usff.navy.mil/Organization/Expeditionary-Strike-Group-ESG-2/