Sherry-Ann Edwards, one of the first women drafted into the T&T Coast Guard in 1994, is once again making history in the Defence Force by becoming this country's first and only female fleet chief petty officer. "Not many people make it to fleet chief petty officer," said Lt Kirk Jean Baptiste, communications specialist of the T&T Coast Guard. "It is not a rank that every rating achieves and it requires lots of hard work." He said Edwards' promotion to that rank was a significant milestone in the history of the T&T?Coast Guard. Edwards' military career began in 1989 when she joined the T&T regiment. She spent five years as a private, working in the medical department. "When the call came for females to join the Coast Guard, I jumped at the opportunity," she said.
"I love the sea as my dad would always take me fishing and I had initially wanted to join the Coast Guard. But they weren't taking women at the time so for me it was an honour." Edwards said women who were already in the army were invited to transfer to the Coast Guard because they already had military training. She and two other women soldiers, Chief Petty Officer Iris Cumberbatch and Chief Petty Officer Charmaine Jack, were the first to be transferred to the T&T Coast Guard. Adjustments had to be made, including new uniforms for the women, accommodation, a policy for female recruits and formulating rights for females. "In the Coast Guard, women and men are trained the same, we do the same work and are treated the same. The only difference is that I wore skirts and they wore pants." Four years after joining the Coast Guard, Edwards became the first female leading rate and was responsible for training the first female recruit intake, a batch of 24 women.
Following that achievement, she steadily climbed the ranks, becoming the first female petty officer, the first female chief petty officer. With her latest promotion, Edwards has become the most senior of non-commissioned officers. She was also the first woman to command a Coast Guard vessel and the first to cross the Atlantic ocean, when she went to England to complete acquisition of the TTS Nelson, then sail it to T&T. Edwards, who trained in medical care when she was in the army, now works with doctors ensuring they are screened and that a medical professional is attached to all of the vessels. She has now taken on an advisory role that allows her to offer recommendations for officers and provide mentorship. Edwards' achievements didn't start when she entered the Coast Guard, though. As a member of T&T's Cadet Force, she became the first female sergeant. She was the first female "best recruit" in her batch and jokingly admitted that she was also the first child to her parents. "I have always wanted to join the military. As a young woman I would watch military action movies on television and get excited and want to do those things. So I joined the cadets and I got the purpose to serve my country. It was a natural transition to go to the army." Since Edwards joined the Coast Guard, the number of women has increased. Today, there are 181 women among the Coast Guard's 1,400 members.