From CTO to Commander, here is the story of Robert “Bob” Nelson Edwards.
Robert Nelson Edwards was born in 1941 in Gosport, Indiana. Following graduation from Martinsville High School in Martinsville, Indiana he entered naval service in June 1959, completing basic training at Great Lakes (Company 255), Illinois in August 1959 and proceeded to CT “O” school at Imperial Beach, California (1959-1960).
As a CTO, Edwards served at NSG San Miguel, Philippines and NSG Wahiawa, Hawaii. Cross-rating to CTI, Edwards attended Hebrew Language School at NSA (1962-1963) and converted to CTI rating and was sent to NAVRADFAC American Embassy, Nicosia, Cyprus. There, he was involved in the evacuation of Nicosia in 1963-64.
Edwards went back to language school in 1965 and completed Russian at DLIWC and in 1966 transferred to Detachment 28 Karamursel, Turkey. While in Turkey he went TAD to Sinop, Turkey; then supported Black Sea Operations, then supported the USS SARATOGA (CVA 60). The day after the USS LIBERTY (AGTR 5) was attacked on June 8 He was flown to Rota for special training to fly EC-121M missions out of Athens, Greece with VQ-2.
At Athens, he flew for about two months flying in the EC-121 over the Eastern Mediterranean during and following the six Day War. Following his assignment in the Mediterranean operations area, he received early orders to the Washington-Moscow Hotline and worked jointly with the National Military Command Center. He returned to Nicosia in June of 1970 for two years.
In 1972, Edwards detached from the Navy. Between 1972 and 1978, he attended Georgetown College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky and also served as pastor at the Elliston Baptist Church in Kentucky and the Waldron Baptist Church in Indiana.
In 1979, Edwards reentered the military and served as an Army reserve Chaplain from April to December and then on January 4, 1980, he transferred back to the Navy as a Navy Chaplain.
As a Navy Chaplain, Edwards served three years at London and made several TAD trips to various Navy bases throughout the UK. During his time in Europe, he never missed opportunities to assist and support Cryptologic Technicians with their needs.
After serving in London, Edwards received orders to COMDESRON 32 onboard the USS CARON (DD 970) for two years. He was on the first ship to arrive off the coast of Grenada. After the fighting ended in Grenada, USS CARON/COMDESRON 32 deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in support of U.S. forces in Beirut following the Beirut Barracks Bombing.
In 1984, while onboard the CARON operating off Beirut, Edwards was asked to go to the OUTBOARD spaces to identify the language coming over the receiver. Because Edwards was only cleared Secret the spaces had to be sanitized prior to his entering. Because of the language work he did in support of military operation he was seriously considered for the Navy Achievement Medal. However, because Edwards was serving as Navy Chaplain (non-combatant) at the time, the Commanding Officer decided not to present him with the award.
After COMDESRON 32, Edwards served two years as Chaplain at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital, and then three years as the Command Chaplain at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard where he had 5,000 military personnel and 10,000 civilians to whom he was responsible.
Edwards was ordered to Post Graduate School where he attended a year of seminary training in 1990 and 1991 to take courses to train other chaplains how to improve their preaching. From 1991-94, Edwards was the command Chaplain at the Naval Air Station, Fallon, NV.
Edwards is authorized to wear the following ribbons/medals: Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy Expeditionary Medal (3), Good Conduct Medal (3), Armed Forces Reserve Medal, National Defense Service Medal (2), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon (3), Navy “E” Ribbon, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Meritorious Service Medal. He is also authorized the wear Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Badge.
His first wife, Annis, died in 2013. They celebrated 52 years of jointly serving the Navy. She often fixed meals for fellow CTs and traveled with him everywhere from Hawaii onward. Bob Edwards is now married to Donna Sue Sowders, a former high school classmate. They married at the age of 80 on September 20, 2021 and are retired in North Port, Florida. Bob has a daughter who is married to a USAF retired cargo pilot, and two sons. He has five grandchildren.
After Edwards retired from the Navy on March 1, 1994 he pastored in Columbus, Indiana.
Thank you for your service shipmate!