ARLINGTON, Va. --
Marine combat correspondents earned top honors in a series of annual Department of Defense competitions that recognize achievements in journalism, photography, videography and graphic arts.
Marines have won individual categories in the past, but “they swept the awards” this year, said Lisa Hennessey, the project manager for competitions, ceremonies and workshops at the Defense Information School, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
In March, Sgt. Mark Fayloga, combat correspondent, Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, was named the Military Photographer of the Year for 2009 in the Visual Information Awards Program. The VIAP awards enlisted service members for excellence in using photography, videography and graphic arts to aid command information and document military activities. Fayloga is only the third Marine to be named the Military Photographer of the Year, and the first since 1993.
In April, Marines also placed first in three of the four top outstanding individual categories for the 2009 Thomas Jefferson Awards Program. This program recognizes both military and DOD civilian print and broadcast journalists for outstanding achievements in furthering the objectives of the Department of Defense Internal Information Program.
Staff Sgt. Luis Agostini, public affairs chief, Regimental Combat Team 7, was announced the Department of Defense Print Journalist of the Year. The last time a Marine won this award was in 2007.
Sgt. Todd Hunter, production chief, Marines TV, Defense Media Activity-Marine Corps, was announced the Department of Defense Broadcast Journalist of the Year.
Lance Cpl. Jad Sleiman, combat correspondent, Marine Forces Reserve, earned the title of Outstanding New Writer. The last year a Marine earned this title was in 2006.
And for the third year in a row, MARINES magazine, the Marine Corps’ official magazine, earned the award for Outstanding Flagship Publication.
“Our mission as correspondents is to tell the Marine Corps story,” said Hunter, who also placed first in the Television Information Program category for his story about a fallen Marine entitled “Lioness: Cpl. Jennifer Parcell.” “Without us doing our job, the story of Marines like Jennifer might go unheard.
“All I did was capitalize on the opportunities that my staff [non-commissioned officers] gave me,” added the Orlando, Fla., native. “They’re the ones that gave me the chance to do this.”
Sleiman agreed that his leaders helped him earn his recognition.
“They teach us to take pride in our work, examine our strengths and weaknesses, and put us in situations where we can do our job well,” said the Beckley, W.Va., native.
According to Agostini, this success can be attributed to young Marine correspondents who are performing at the same or higher levels than their counterparts in the other services.
“It’s a combination of a new generation of combat correspondents and more open-minded, talented mentors leading them,” said the Haverstraw, N.Y., native, who earned the title of Outstanding New Writer as a young correspondent in 2002.
While the correspondents were proud of their achievements, they agreed that telling the Marine Corps story was what mattered most.
“The best part of being recognized is my work has received more attention, and as a result, the stories I covered are making it out to more and more people,” said Fayloga, a Hesperia, Calif., native.
Other correspondents that were recognized for their work at this year’s awards include Cpl. Laura A. Mapes, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Pilgrim, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sgt. Jennifer Calaway, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sgt. Todd Crowell, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, and Cpl. Justin Wiemers, MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.