The award is part of the Thomas Jefferson Awards Program, recognizing Defense Department journalists worldwide for outstanding achievement in promoting the goals of the DOD's Internal Information Program, a program responsible for, among other things, telling the Air Force story to a global audience.
"Essentially, Don just won the highest honor any Defense Department journalist may receive, the DOD equivalent of the civilian Pulitzer Prize," said David Cannon, the Academy's communication director. "This award tells us what we already know — that Don is an extremely talented writer, not only able to tell the Academy story, but to tell it in a way that shows the impact across the DOD and across our Air Force."
Thomas Jefferson Award officials consider a writer's "range, continuity and quality of the stories" when determining award recipients, said Robert Hood, the Defense Information School's Competitions Coordinator at Fort Meade, Md. Fort Meade is home to DINFOS, where are all DOD public affairs specialists — Airmen and civilians — are trained.
In 2013, Branum covered a variety of topics for the Academy, but perhaps none were as important and wide-ranging as his coverage on sexual assault, the effects of force shaping, religious diversity and a wealth of other issues that didn't just affect the Academy, but influenced the DOD at large, not to mention public perception of the Air Force's only academy.
Branum, 39, joined the Air Force in 1999 as a computer programmer but retrained into Public Affairs in 2004.
Then-Staff Sgt. Don Branum graduated from DINFOS that same year as a distinguished graduate. Since then, he's received numerous Air Force and command-level Public Affairs awards as an Airman and as a civilian, including Air Force Civilian Print Journalist of the Year, third place, 2013; Air Force Space Command Print Journalist of the Year, 2007; and Air Force Space Command Best News Article, 2007.
He left the Air Force in 2011 but remains in Public Affairs.