Ed, 52, from Gulfport, Mississippi, is an instructor at The Refrigeration School (RSI). Ed joined RSI in February 2019 after a career that included 24 years in the United States Navy.
Thanks for your time, Ed. Tell us a little about your career prior to joining RSI.
I graduated high school in 1985. After that, I did a couple of odd jobs, then I went to the military. The military pushed me into the plumbing and air conditioning field. I was part of the Navy Construction Battalion, a SeaBee. I was a Navy Utilitiesman and ended up as a Utilities Chief serving 24 years. I got my license in 2002. I did 24 years in the Navy and spent maybe six months of those on a ship.
Tell us a little more about being a Navy SeaBee.
We don’t go to sea like the regular Navy. SeaBees are usually attached to Marine battalions. SeaBee comes from CB, Construction Battalion. I did air conditioning, plumbing, just regular subcontract work. We train for conflicts, but anytime there was a disaster in the U.S. they would send us to help rebuild—after hurricanes, earthquakes. I retired in 2011.
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Thank you for your service. What did you do next?
When I came out, I was a firearms instructor on the M16 and M9 for several years. I had a contract with the Navy. Then in 2015, I moved to Arizona because my dad got sick. I needed something to do here, so I went to the VA. I wanted to be a motorcycle mechanic, but the VA pointed me in the direction of RSI. They suggested, with my experience, that it was probably best to do something where there were more jobs. The air conditioning job market is huge out here in Arizona, and pretty much everywhere these days.
You attended RSI as a student?
Yes, I did. I graduated about three years ago. I did the whole gamut—the Electro-Mechanical Technologies program and then the Associate of Occupational Studies in Mechanical Maintenance Engineering program.
What did you do after graduating RSI?
After graduation,n I went to work for a company called Nighthawk Refrigeration Systems. We had contracts with several restaurants. It was all preventative maintenance or trouble calls. I worked on everything from freezers, to refrigerators, deep fat fryers, ovens, and air conditioning, of course.
What made you come back to RSI and become an instructor?
Quite honestly, I loved instructing. It’s a very rewarding feeling. Even when I was going through the school, I thought I’d like to be a teacher. I think the military taught me quite a bit more than I thought they did, because when I got out there and actually started working with the RSI experience, I don’t want to say it came easy, but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I was going to be a Formula One race car driver! Then the idea of the military hit me when I was a teenager. I decided that’s what I was interested in and that’s what I was going to do.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you?
People know I love motorcycles and cars, anything mechanical. But they might not know I’m a big train hobbyist. I’ve got a train room at home. I’m into the old gauge railroad. My wife calls me a train geek.
If you weren’t a teacher what would you do?
If I had all the money in the world I’d go to Monaco and watch the Formula One race. It looks like a glamorous place to watch a race! But I would still instruct; I love RSI and the people here are wonderful. A lot of the instructors from when I was a student are still here.
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
I think my dad. He passed away almost three and half years ago. I’d love to find out more about our family. I spent a lot of time away in different places, so I’d like to learn more about the history of the family. I’m learning a lot from my mother, but I’d like to know more about his side.
Tell us a little about your own family.
My wife Vanessa and I have been together about ten years. I have two grown daughters from a previous marriage, one in Mississippi and one here in Arizona, and five grandkids.
What was your favorite part of your time working in the field?
In the military, I guess it was the satisfaction of helping people. They needed air conditioning, and most of the time it was because they had critical equipment that needed to be cooled down quick. We were in the field quite a bit. We often didn’t have showers, so getting any little creature comfort is welcome. Getting air conditioning to them with generators was great.
In the civilian world it’s got to be just meeting everybody. I’m a people person. I like to talk to everybody. That’s probably the best thing, that and getting their units up and running. I don’t how restaurant managers do their job; it’s so stressful. When you get their freezer or ice cream maker back running, they love you.
If you got an unexpected day off to yourself, what would you do with that time?
I’d be in the garage working on my bike or on my cars, or in the train room. I don’t get out too much these days. I traveled a lot in the military, so now I leave that to my wife.
If you were to tell someone “thank you” for making you the man you are today, who would it be?
My wife Vanessa. I had a rough time coming out of the military, especially with the firearms because there were a lot of alpha-types there—prior military or police officers. She got me out of a bad spot and into RSI. She was the one to get me out of everything; she pushed me to go to school and keep on. She’s very different to me. We’re a 180 off each other. She’s very well educated and doing her PhD; she works in human resources.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to new students considering RSI?
Pay attention and ask plenty of questions. Every class is a stepping stone to the next. Get your hands dirty. Don’t be afraid to touch anything. It’s a great field, and once you learn the ropes, it’s actually pretty easy.