I would like to begin by thanking our distinguished guests for attending today. I would particularly like to thank the Namibian Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs, the Honorable Frans Kapofi for being in attendance. I would also like to thank Captain Chad Graham and his crew for hosting us onboard the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams today.
The USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is named in honor of 22-year-old, Corporal Hershel W. Williams, a Marine who served on Iwo Jima in the Second World War and was awarded the Medal of Honor, our Nation’s highest honor, for heroism above and beyond the call of duty. Corporal Williams was retired but then rejoined the Marine Corps after the war to continue his service to his nation. In his wake, he left a long-legacy of service, and this vessel, which carries his name, is continuing his legacy of service on the high-seas.
Shortly after its commissioning in March 2020, the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams was given the honor of being the first U.S. naval vessel permanently assigned to the Africa Command area of responsibility. Since then, it has participated in port visits and bilateral exercises with many African nations. We are honored that the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams is here in the port of Walvis Bay and grateful for the unwavering support of the Namibian Government, to include the Office of the President, which made this port visit possible.
The United States and Namibia share a long history of security cooperation, be it de-mining operations following independence to humanitarian aid and participation in the Obangame Express exercise series. And this cooperation extends beyond the military realm to security more broadly. We hope that this port visit will represent only the most recent installment in our partnership and lay the foundation for future engagement.
This morning sailors from the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams and Namibian Navy met on a local field for a friendly game of football. From what I hear it was an excellent game and both teams played their hearts out. I will say that there it sounds like the Namibian team might have snuck some professionals into their ranks, but everyone still had a great time. Events like these are critical to building comradery between our navies and enrich our bilateral relationship.
Tomorrow the NS Brendan Simbwaye will conduct a Passage Exercise and escort the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams from Namibian territorial waters. During this exercise the ships will conduct communication drills and practice an at-sea rendezvous and joint maneuvers. Exchanges like these afford our two nations the opportunity to not only showcase our interoperability, but also lay the foundation for deeper partnership and collaboration.
The presence of the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams highlight our nations’ shared commitment to ensuring safety, security and freedom of navigation on the high seas, not only in Namibian territorial waters, but in the South Atlantic as well. Our commitment to these principles is resolute, as they are vital to ensuring economic prosperity of Namibia and its ability to access to global markets.
I hope that this week’s port visit will be the first of many in the years to come and that these visits will fuel closer cooperation, enriching not only our bilateral security cooperation, but also the prosperity and security of both our nations.