Team Langley staff sergeant wins 'Emmy of DOD Journalism'

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Chyenne Adams
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
What do the nation's third president and a staff sergeant at Langley Air Force Base, Va., have in common?

Staff Sgt. Katie Gar Ward, 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs, was named Outstanding New Writer of the Year in the 2012 Thomas Jefferson Awards Program. The awards program, established in 1968 and named after the nation's third president and Declaration of Independence author, recognizes military and government civilian print and broadcast journalists for outstanding achievements in furthering Department of Defense internal information program objectives.

These awards "are the 'Emmys of DOD journalism' and the winning products clearly represent the public affairs mission of leveraging and integrating communication capabilities to advance commander's mission priorities," said Air Force Public Affairs Director Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick in an e-mail to the career field April 26.

The Charlottesville, Va., native had been in the public affairs career field for less than five months when Air Combat Command named her the Outstanding PA "Rookie of the Year" in February. The Air Force validated ACC's findings in April, and then the announcement came from the Air Force's PA director saying she'd secured the category in the DOD-level awards.

"I'm completely humbled and astounded at the same time," said Ward. "I like to be known for having a positive impact on the mission, so I strive for personal successes."

This high achiever graduated with honors from Fluvanna County High School in Palmyra, Va., then earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with concentrations in filmmaking and digital art in 2008 from the University of Virginia. That same year, she enlisted in the Air Force and fully became the embodiment of "excellence in all we do" early in her career - graduating as an honor graduate from basic military training, her first technical training school for financial management, and again from the Defense Information School when she retrained into public affairs in the summer of 2012.

On top of her three-time honor grad status, she also achieved senior airman below-the-zone, 22nd Comptroller Squadron Airman of the Year in 2009 and 2010, and won the John L. Levitow award during Airman Leadership School in 2012.

"It feels great to be in a career field where you get paid to do something that you love," said Ward. "I get to document how amazing the Air Force is every day. It's the best job in the Air Force."

Those sentiments were echoed in the guest speaker's comments at the DOD Communicators of Excellence Awards 2012, May 10 at the Defense Information School at Fort George G. Meade, Md., where Ward received her due recognition along with other Thomas Jefferson Award and Visual Information Production Award Program winners.

"These outstanding communicators... are telling the great story of the people who serve in the United States military," said Ray Shepherd, Defense Media Activity director and guest speaker. "Everything you do is part of history and you have a chance to tell a tremendous story from an expert insider's point of view. Your work opens a window of our world to the outsider."

Senior leadership from nearly every military service was represented at the ceremony, including the Air Force Public Affairs Career Field Manager Chief Master Sgt. Mark Cormier.

"Katie is a perfect example of the outstanding caliber of folks we have within our small, unique career field," said the chief. "Public affairs photojournalists, broadcasters and bandsmen are high-demand assets because of their specialized skills - increasing awareness and understanding of the Air Force mission. Sergeant Ward set the bar high as a rookie communicator right from the get-go; she's a true asset to the career field and the Air Force."

Ward is currently assigned as managing editor of the JBLE installation newspaper - the commander's most visible communication tool, showcasing 21,500 JBLE Airmen, Soldiers and civilians to more than 105,000 readers.

When she's not at work, the "Emmy winner" is at home with her husband - Senior Airman Walker Ward, 633rd Security Forces Squadron - most likely together in the kitchen cooking a gourmet meal, or on their back deck grilling and hanging out with their 9-year-old and 2-year-old German Shepherds, Benji and Bella. The self-proclaimed homebody said she couldn't love her life more, and will continue to strive for personal and professional success every day.