Manning native serving with amphibious warfare unit, inspires other sailors

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steve Watterworth
Posted 6/15/18

NORFOLK - A 2005 Manning High School graduate and Manning, South Carolina, 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 Tabitha Harrell …

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Manning native serving with amphibious warfare unit, inspires other sailors

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NORFOLK - A 2005 Manning High School graduate and Manning, South Carolina, 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 Tabitha Harrell is an operations specialist with the group operating out of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

A Navy operations specialist is responsible for the safe navigation of boats and ensuring operational readiness.

"I get to inspire junior sailors and work alongside friends and do special operations that few others get to do," Harrell said.

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 offshore to the beach, according to Navy officials.

"It's a family environment at this command," Harrell said. "There are experiences here you will not get anywhere else."

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 distinction in his or her command, community and career, Harrell is most proud of working toward completing her doctorate degree in public health.

"I just returned from a year-long deployment, and I'm finishing my doctorate with my two kids," Harrell said.

While serving in the Navy may present many challenges, Harrell said she has found many great rewards.

"The most important thing the Navy has taught me is leadership doesn't limit itself," Harrell said.