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USS Hershel “Woody” Williams Holds Change of Command Ceremony

26 July 2021

From Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Malachi Lakey

ATLANTIC OCEAN - Capt. David Gray was relieved as commanding officer of USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) by Capt. Chad Graham during a ceremony held in the ship’s hanger bay July 25, 2021.

The ceremony was presided over by Cmdr. Ernique Sesler, executive officer, Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4).

Gray, a graduate of Old Dominion University and the Naval War College, joined the Navy in August 1990. He assumed command of Hershel Williams at Naval Station Rota, Spain in June 2021 and oversaw the turnover process between the ship’s two alternating crews.

Gray’s next command will be the Expeditionary Warfare Development Center at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.

“To my crew, fair winds and following seas,” said Gray. “To the Sixth Fleet Commander and his staff, thank you for being patient and helpful all the time. To our Military Sealift Command civilian mariner brothers and sisters, thank you for engaging with us and keeping this ship running on time, every time.”

In keeping with naval heritage, the officers each read their orders and after a short exchange of salutes, authority and responsibility was transferred.

Graham joined the Navy in 1992 as a nuclear machinist’s mate, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1998. His previous tour was as Chairman of Seamanship and Navigation at the Naval Academy from 2017-2021.

“I am very excited to continue the incredible job Captain Gray has done,” said Graham. “This has been one of the best turnovers I have had in my career. The crew is amazing and more than ready to execute the exciting and important mission ahead of us.”

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national interests and security in Europe and Africa.

U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.


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