Professor and Ensign: The 2 Hats of Tarleton State’s Dr. Jennifer T. Edwards

Dr. Jennifer T. Edwards, Tarleton State Professor and U.S. Navy reservist

STEPHENVILLE — The week before classes started, Dr. Jennifer T. Edwards was a half-world away in Sydney, Australia, far from the oak trees and Tarleton State gates, serving as a Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Navy (USN) 7th Fleet public affairs unit.

Her mission was to write news releases, work with international journalists and interact with the public affairs teams from other countries involved in Malabar-23, a surface, air and subsurface multilateral field training the Navy conducted with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

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Chief of Navy Australia Vice Adm. Mark Hammond salutes a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailor assigned to the Asahi-class destroyer JS Shiranui in Sydney, Australia, prior to a shipboard tour during the training exercise Malabar-23. Tarleton State Professor Dr. Jennifer Edwards, a U.S. Navy reservist,  participated in the exercise. (photo by Navy Reservist MC1 Reymundo A. Villegas III)

In one exercise, she and a fellow North Texan, Navy Reservist MC3 Matthew Castro, provided public affairs support for an explosive ordnance disposal activity as dive teams identified, disabled and removed a simulated explosive device attached to the hull of a ship. They were situated with the USN Explosive Ordnance Disposal team and the RAN Clearance Dive team onboard HMAS Kuttabul just off the pier aft of HMAS Supply. 

Dr. Edwards directs the Rural Communication Institute and the Texas Social Media Research Institute at Tarleton State. She also is an Ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve, which is a junior rank of a commissioned officer.  

“As a professor and communicator, I realized that I needed to gain more experience to provide more relevant material for our Tarleton students,” she said. “The U.S. Navy Reserve has afforded me the opportunity to serve my country, learn additional communication skills and help people around the world.”

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Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Clearance Divers and U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 Sailors conducted hull search operations in Aug. 15 in Sydney, Australia during Exercise Malabar 2023. Tarleton State Professor Dr. Jennifer Edwards, a U.S. Navy reservist, participated in the exercise in support of explosive ordnance disposal activity. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Castro)

She spent 12 days in the Indo-Pacific with Malabar-23 and found it eye-opening to see four nations collaborating in a joint exercise focused on interoperability. One big highlight was watching the navies connect through formal activities associated with the exercise and informal activities like sports days and cultural heritage events.

Ens. Edwards networked with fellow public affairs officers and mass communication specialists from units across the four navies. She hopes to use these experiences to help Tarleton students learn more about communication in the U.S. armed forces.

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