NORFOLK – A 2006 Grayson High School graduate and Loganville, Georgia, native is serving in the U.S. Navy with Assault Craft Unit FOUR (ACU 4), one of the Navy's most advanced amphibious warfare units.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Michelle Newman is a hull technician with the group operating out of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
A Navy hull technician is responsible for welding and plumbing on ships.
"The best part of my job is getting to meet new people all the time and welding anything from T.V. brackets to piping systems," said Newman. "We weld from the top of the ship to the bottom."
ACU 4 is one of the components of Naval Beach Group TWO (NBG 2).
Commissioned in 1948, just after World War II, NBG 2 trains and equips military forces for deployment overseas. Sailors with NBG 2 serve a vital role in the Navy our nation needs by ensuring that amphibious operations remain ready to defend and protect America at all times.
ACU 4 operates landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) vehicles, which are specialized to transport personnel and equipment from surface ships to shore. The LCAC is a high-speed, over-the-beach craft capable of carrying a payload of more than 60 tons. The LCAC can be used to transport weapons systems, cargo and personnel of Marine assault units. Air cushion technology allows the vehicle to reach more than 70 percent of the world's coastline, while only 15 percent of that coastline is accessible by conventional landing craft, according to Navy officials.
The exercises and real-world operations that ACU 4 Sailors participate in include evacuation of American citizens from a hostile territory, delivery of food and medical supplies after a natural disaster, and many other tasks that involve movement from ships off-shore to the beach, according to Navy officials.
"I like most of my chain of command," said Newman. "We all get along really well. My chain of command actually cares about us."
Jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the command running smoothly, according to Navy officials. The jobs range from operating boats to maintaining engines.
"ACU 4 Sailors and craft are the connector and where the rubber meets the sand between the Amphibious Ready Group and the fight," said Capt. Erik Nilsson, ACU 4's commanding officer. The maintenance team is dedicated to ensuring the craft are ready at a moment's notice to engage in missions from high-end combat to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief."
Though there are many ways for a sailor to earn the distinction in their command, community, and career, Newman is most proud of her family.
"The military has given me a comfortable life," said Newman. "My family is my life."
While serving in the Navy may present many challenges, Newman said they have found many great rewards.
"The respect learned the ongoing school of Navy leadership," said Newman.