Marine Link
Sunday, July 14, 2024

US Navy Officer Relieved After Ship Grounding off Gabon

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

July 9, 2024

Capt. Lenard Mitchell, commanding officer of the expeditionary sea base USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4) addresses the crew during an All Hands Call in the hangar bay. (Photo: Ridge Leoni / U.S. Navy)

Capt. Lenard Mitchell, commanding officer of the expeditionary sea base USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4) addresses the crew during an All Hands Call in the hangar bay. (Photo: Ridge Leoni / U.S. Navy)

The captain of U.S. Navy ship USS Hershel “Woody” Williams has been relieved of his duties after the ship went aground under his command earlier this year.

The Navy is still investigating the incident, which saw the 784-foot Lewis B. Puller-class expeditionary mobile base vessel go soft aground near Gabon's port of Libreville on May 9. But it said "sufficient findings of fact emerged during the investigation to warrant the relief" of commanding officer Capt. Lenard Mitchell.

"The U.S. Navy holds commanding officers to the highest standard and takes action to hold them accountable when those standards are not met. Naval leaders are entrusted with significant responsibilities to their Sailors and their ships," the Navy said in a statement announcing the move.

The relief is somewhat unusual given that the Navy typically relieves commanding officers in a matter of days following a grounding incident—not months as has happened here. 

Capt. Mitchell, a commanding officer with more than 30 years of service, will be temporarily assigned to Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic, while Capt. Michael Concannon will assume duties as interim commanding officer onboard Hershel “Woody” Williams, the Navy said,

USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is currently forward deployed to U.S. Naval Forces Africa, and the the command’s mission and schedule have not been impacted by the relief, the Navy said.