Oct. 3 (UPI) — A troop-carrying ship will be deployed to Greece for the first time in decades, the U.S. Navy announced this week, which experts call a possible indication of U.S. frustration with Turkey.
The expeditionary sea base ship USS Hershel “Woody” Williams will be homeported at Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete, 600 miles from the Turkish coast. It is the first time in 40 years that a U. S. ship will use the joint U.S.-Greece base as a homeport, Stars and Stripes reported.
It will patrol the Mediterranean Sea and conduct missions in Africa in coordination with regional partners, the Navy announced.
The ship’s presence in the area “provides a new capability in the theater,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander of the Sixth Fleet.
While the ship is not prepared to intervene in conflict between Greece and Turkey, each a NATO member, it could serve as a symbolic warning that the United States is frustrated with Turkey — including its incursions into Syria, its relationship with Russia in purchasing air defense systems, and its insistence on drilling for minerals in eastern Mediterranean Sea areas controlled by Greece.
“It is a very sensitive area that has been recently tried by Turkey’s aggressiveness with provocative actions,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said this week.
The arrival of the ship could be a prelude to a U.S. military buildup at Souda Bay, which could become an alternative to the use by the U.S. Air Force of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where nuclear weapons are reportedly stored. However, the Pentagon has not released any information suggesting that direction.
The ship, 784 feet long, carries a crew of 240 and is designed to serve as a modular platform to perform large-scale logistics movements, including the transfer of troops, vehicles and equipment from sea to shore.
The Puller class of expeditionary sea base ships is designed to reduce dependency on foreign ports and provide support if no ports are available.