Cross Country Alumnae's GW Experience Paves Way to Successful Military Career
The Story of How a GW Athlete Went From Foggy Bottom to the Farthest Corners of the World
Sept. 25, 2013
She did not know it at the time, but an official visit to George Washington during her senior year of high school set Lauren Edwards on the path toward a successful military career in the United States Marine Corps.
It was a gloomy and stormy winter weekend when she first set her eyes on the Foggy Bottom campus, but within hours she knew that she had found her home for the next four years.
"I went on my official visit and it just happened to be on one of those dynamic winter weeks where we were all snowed in," Edwards recalls. "I had a great visit, the campus was fantastic, the team was really nice, and I knew that I wanted to be amidst the excitement that GW and the city had to offer. After that visit, there was really no other choice but to attend."
Edwards went on to become a standout harrier on the women's cross country team. She registered nine top finishes during her career and was a 1995 Atlantic 10 All-Conference performer after taking sixth place at the 1995 Atlantic 10 Championships, the best finish at the event by a GW harrier in program history at the time.
She credits her time on the cross country team for instilling discipline and structure in her collegiate experience and fondly reminisces about her cross country career.
"One of the great parts of Washington, D.C., is the parks and the places to run," said Edwards. "We had so many wonderful runs along the canal path or workouts in Rock Creek Park. Often we would simply stop mid-run and take a trip to the top of the Washington Monument. Running in the hubbub of the city was fantastic."
In addition to her commitment to the cross country team, Edwards held down a job as a manager at the Charles E. Smith Center in addition to her coursework in the School of Media and Public Affairs. "I think the positions I was afforded while working at Smith Center helped me in my current career," Edwards explained. "As a Smith Center manager I had to hone my time management, leadership and organizational skills as well as take on responsibility in ways I had not previously. I had to work as a member of a team. Those skills were vital building blocks to my current career."
During her time at GW she became friendly with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) and their members. While she was never directly involved in a military program at GW, those relationships set her on a path for after graduation.
After receiving her degree, Edwards attended Officer Candidate School for the United States Marine Corps and was soon commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in August 1998. From there, she went through a year of training at various schools before being given the job specialty of Combat Engineer.
Her deployment took her to Okinawa, Japan, where she lived for two years while working deployments in the Philippines, Korea and Australia.
She moved to Yuma, Ariz., in 2001 and picked up command of an Engineer Company. In 2003, her unit was deployed to Iraq as part of the major invasion that was taking place at the time. After returning from her first tour of duty, Edwards moved back to Washington, D.C., for a staff job as an assignments officer.
Edwards attended Expeditionary Warfare School in 2006 and the following year moved to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where she was deployed for another tour in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010 she was selected for command of a Recruiting Station in Charleston, W.Va., where she held the command billet until 2013.
This past June, Edwards participated in a long-standing military tradition, the Change of Command Ceremony. At this ceremony, she passed control of the U.S. Marine Corps' Charleston recruiting station on to Major Gabriel Diana of Columbus, Ohio. At the event, Edwards was praised for her leadership that saw the Charleston station as the most improved in the 4th Marine District over the past three years.
Currently a student at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., and despite crossing numerous oceans and living in the farthest corners of the world, Edwards still identifies her time at GW as a crucial part of her professional and personal development and remains in tune with her former program.
When she heard about the GW Department of Athletics and Recreation had reinstated track, she couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy. "While we had the ability to participate in some meets, we did not really get a true, full season," said Edwards. "Track helps keep runners fit and in a competitive mindset year-round. I think it will also prove a key tool in recruiting very talented student-athletes who want to race Division I year round and not just in the fall."
Looking back on her time at GW, and thinking about the bright future for the university's current student-athletes, Edwards' school pride is obvious. "While the word sounds trite, the GW experience was amazing," she said. "Not only are you afforded all the goodness of the GW campus and its happenings, but you are placed right in the heartbeat of our nation. GW introduced me to people from all walks of life and backgrounds; it was a microcosm of the melting pot that is Washington D.C. GW was a place to grow up, but not too fast. It was a place to truly discover who I really was and who I wanted to be. I can't recall a bad memory about my time there, and I will be eternally proud to Raise High!"