FORT MEADE, Md. — Members of the Wisconsin National Guard’s Public Affairs Office were on hand to receive a Department of Defense award for @ease Express during a Communicators of Excellence Awards program, May 10, at the Defense Information School, here.
The annual ceremony recognizes the work of military public affairs professionals from all five branches. Seventy-eight awards were presented in such categories as graphic artist, photography, videography, print, broadcast and visual information production.
“What you do is an absolutely great honor, for you and for those people who get to see your work,” said Ray Shepherd, director of the Defense Media Activity located at Fort Meade.
Shepherd observed that the recipients gathered at the ceremony were uniquely situated to tell the military’s story because of their knowledge and understanding of the military. Civilian media coverage is often presented from an outsider’s point of view, he said.
“You have the pleasure of telling the story from the inside,” Shepherd said. “You provide a window.”
Maj. Paul Rickert, Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office director, agreed.
“Our job is to bring transparency to a very large organization that speaks differently, dresses differently and whose job is very different from most civilian organizations,” Rickert said. “It’s important for the public to know what we do in their service, and it’s equally important for Wisconsin National Guard members to know what their brothers and sisters in arms are doing for the state and nation. That’s the vitally important role of @ease.”
@ease Express was recognized with a Thomas Jefferson Award as the best Web-Based Publication category in all of the Department of Defense — its second such award in the past four years. To be considered at that level, @ease was singled out as the best in category in the National Guard Bureau’s Media Contest, and then the U.S. Army’s Keith L. Ware Awards.
The Thomas Jefferson Awards were established in 1968 to recognize military and civilian employee print and broadcast journalists for outstanding achievements in furthering the objectives of the Department of Defense. @Ease Express was one of two National Guard winners in the Thomas Jefferson Awards for 2012.
“This really was a gathering of the best of the best in military public affairs professionals,” said Vaughn Larson, @ease editor. “Some of these people are repeat winners — one airman was named military photographer of the year for a record seventh time, and deservedly so. It was inspiring to see their collected work, and an honor for @ease to be counted among them.”
Rickert said the gallery of winners was impressive.
“It was very interesting to see what different public affairs offices produce based on the scope of their mission,” Rickert said. “A lot of the work that was recognized is very forward-looking and cutting edge.”
Shepherd urged the winners to share their expertise.
“You didn’t get here by yourself,” Shepherd said. “You got interested in what you do because of someone else. You will provide the inspiration for the people who will be sitting here next year.”