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Fearless Women of the Coast Guard Reserve - Chrissie Edwards

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Petty Officer 2nd Class Chrissie Edwards

Reserve enlisted leaders featured in recruiting campaign -

RESERVIST Magazine, Issue 4 2018

Over the summer, the Coast Guard Recruiting Command partnered with Buzzfeed on a photo essay that highlighted 10 women in the Coast Guard. The article, “10 Pieces of Advice from Badass Women of the Coast Guard,” featured three reservists: Petty Officer 3rd Class Brittny Thompson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Chrissie Edwards and Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Sprout.

Apart from Thompson’s Type III uniform, the women blend in with their active duty shipmates. Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen and his team at CGRC’s marketing division worked to identify operational and support ratings, active and reserve members and, among the reservists, members of the blue guard (sectors and stations) and green guard (port security units and coriverons).

“I wanted to get as much of a broad-spectrum representation as possible,” said Ameen. “My main job is like a producer; I scour the service, looking for the right people to place into our  advertisements. That’s the benefit of being a PA [public affairs specialist]. You develop a network.” Many people remember the late-night television and radio commercials of the mid-1990 and 2000s, but as technology changed, so did CGRC’s approach to finding the Coast Guard’s newest recruits.

“The principles of recruiting don’t change, but the platforms do,” said Ameen. “Every single job in the Coast Guard is open to everyone, and we’re getting that message to the people via the platforms they’re already on. We’re on Instagram doing Instagram stories. We have the chat program—if potential applicants have a question, they can instantly talk with a recruiter. It’s a full-time social effort.”

Thompson, Edwards and Sprout gave great leadership advice in each of their quotes, and based on their contributions to the Coast Guard’s missions, it’s no surprise that they were chosen to represent the best of the service.

Chrissie Edwards - CS2, Recruiting Command In-service Transfer Team, Washington, D.C.

Some of Chrissie Edwards’ earliest memories are of cooking.

“I remember my mom making homemade tortillas when I was two or three years old. I can never make them as good as she did,” said Edwards, eyes smiling behind her black-framed glasses. “You never let go of that homemade tortilla, you know? But I think that’s the secret to it—that it was made by her. It's the way it made me feel when I watched her make it. That's the secret ingredient.”

Still, she didn’t foresee her path as a cook in the Coast Guard. She attended two semesters of college, and drifted toward either being a police officer or joining the military. When a family friend joined the Coast Guard, she called a recruiter and started asking questions.

Seven months later and fresh out of boot camp, Edwards reported to a buoy tender, the Coast Guard Cutter Fir. Her days were spent dragging chains and scraping buoys; it’s a known fact that black hull sailors work hard. But they also eat well, and Edwards admired the little group of cooks aboard Fir.

“They always worked together to create something great for the crew,” said Edwards. “They always had so much pride in what they did.”

Eventually, they welcomed Edwards into the galley to start trying her hand at a few dishes, and she added her name to the FS A-school list (as it was known before the rating’s name change).

After school, Edwards accepted orders to another black hull, the Coast Guard Cutter Juniper. She laughed remembering the tricks the galley cooks used, like trying not to get burned putting trays into the oven when the ship took a roll, or putting wet towels under mixing bowls and cutting boards so they wouldn’t slide. She said she could never get her lemon bars to come out level, they always had a list to them from being in a floating oven—things the average cook never has to worry about.

“One time, we were in these 25-foot swells, and we’re making Swedish meatballs, so we’re trying to roll meatballs while making sure the pots don’t slide off the stovetop,” said Edwards.

The best part of working in the galley, said Edwards, was that the cooks would know about anything going on before anyone else. 

“We had to know everything, where to offload trash, when we could buy more food… so we would know about anything going on before the whole crew.”

Plus that passageway that runs along the galley? Yeah, people like to talk. Loudly.

By this time, Edwards was engaged to be married, and she couldn’t get a billet close by her fiancé. She tried to cross over into the Reserve, but she couldn’t find a unit within RCD that had a billet open. Edwards agreed to stay in the IRR while she dug out her educational benefits and started her bachelor’s degree at the Art Institute of Washington.

Her husband Mike was working nearby at the Department of Homeland Security’s dining facility, and the two purchased their first house together.

When her first semester ended, Edwards didn’t take a summer break. She upped her game, enrolling in six classes per quarter semester and taking a part-time job managing a small coffee shop.

“I thought, ‘I'm already full speed ahead, why not keep going?’” said Edwards.

Working at a furious pace that allowed her to finish a four-year degree in two and a half, she graduated last March with her bachelor’s in culinary management.

Now she had the trifecta of talent, experience and education, and she brought it all back to the Coast Guard last spring when she took an out-of-rate assignment on active duty orders as part of the In-service Transfer Team (ISTT). There, she helps active duty members transfer to the Reserve.

“I just wanted to be part of the Coast Guard team again,” said Edwards. “To me, Coast Guard is what I know, what I enjoy.”

Though she works in trops during the day, Edwards has a reputation for donning her chef’s jacket on occasional evenings when she pitches in with special events around D.C. She passes on her tips and tricks to the other CSs, while simultaneously learning new ones.

The names of delicacies drop gracefully and effortlessly as she speaks—things like, “poke in phyllo dough shells” and “duck liver pâté” and “tapenade on toasted baguette.” She’s so familiar and comfortable with the fanciest of foods and techniques, but to know Edwards is to appreciate her modesty; she’s most proud of a simple princess cake for her stepdaughter’s fourth birthday.

It was a surprise to Edwards when she was recently chosen to be featured in the Buzzfeed article. Modest to a fault, she attributed her success to opportunities presented in the service, and she was eager to pass on her knowledge to the next generation of Coast Guard cooks.

“I don't have a pastry degree yet—I’m still one class away from my associate’s. But the things I’ve learned [in college] about pastry, I've been able to teach my husband, who’s used it during his receptions, and he's been able to teach other CSs.”

So much of being a cook is based on trends and appetites, cultures and creativity.

“Our rating is one of the few where you can say, ‘This is what I know works,’” said Chief Petty Officer Dustin Webb, himself a trops-by-day, chef’s-coat-by night-type who also works at Headquarters. “It’s not mathematically driven; it’s an organic thing.”

Edwards recently “picked up ice sculpting” (as she puts it) while prepping for the reception for the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard change of watch ceremony. Working Webb, who at one time had also worked on the commandant’s culinary staff, Edwards learned to sculpt a ship’s wheel out of ice, carving out the spokes one by one. Days later, on her own, she tested her new skill, engraving tiny Hawaiian flowers in the displays for the commandant’s change of command reception, a subtle nod to Adm. Paul Zukunft’s retirement plans.

“Right from the beginning, she was eager to learn,” said Webb, who was excited to pass on the rare knowledge of ice carving. “She wanted to do new things in the culinary arts, and when someone’s willing to learn, that’s awesome.”

Since the busy summer of receptions due to the change in Coast Guard administrations, Edwards continued to teach and learn. She loves being part of the bench strength for DHS and other national-level special events.

“They just ask me to help, and I say, ‘Yes! I'll be there!’” she said with a laugh.

Edwards and her husband continue to share their love of cooking. It doesn’t require a special occasion for them to spend an evening together making chocolate truffles with raspberry macaroon filling and whiskey ganache for an event at the commandant’s residence.

“We need a bigger kitchen,” said Mike, remembering a time when they made poached pears covered in chocolate mousse. “It’s just something we like to do.”

They talk about opening their own restaurant one day, maybe an Italian bistro in Texas. She’s even beginning to teach her stepdaughter how to make a few recipes.

 

Photos:

Petty Officer 2nd Class Chrissie Edwards, who was featured in recent Buzzfeed article, has experienced the gamut of Coast Guard culinary opportunities, from back to back sea tours on buoy tenders, to putting on gourmet dinners for high-profile national events, to getting her four-year culinary degree on the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Photo illustration by Chief Petty Officer Matthew Schofield.