WASHINGTON --The White House News Photographers Association (WHNPA) honored the Military Photographer and the Military Video Photographer of the Year at its annual Gala, hosted by Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason.
White House Chief of Staff and former National Security Advisor, Denis McDonough, presented awards to the winners at the WHNPA’s 2014 Eyes of History black-tie Gala, held in the nation’s capital.
Also honored was a local TV news photographer, who often covers news events at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB).
“The President’s Own” United States Marine Band opened the Gala with patriotic music, setting the stage for the celebration of the news photographers and their accomplishments during the year. The band’s primary mission is to perform for the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
A Joint Service Honor Guard, comprised of Airmen and Sailors from JBAB, Soldiers from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Marines from Marine Barracks Washington and Coast Guardsmen from the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard, presented the nation’s colors as the Marine Band played the National Anthem.
Following the invocation given by Associated Press Photo Editor Jon Elswick, the Marine Band finished its work by playing the Armed Forces medley saluting WHNPA members and guests, representing each of the five military branches.
WHNPA President Ron Sachs welcomed the attendees to the Gala and reflected upon highlights of the association’s 93 years covering the occupants of the White House, before calling attention to a photo of President Obama congratulating the first place winners of WHNPA’s 2014 photo contest in the Oval Office.
Addressing the hundreds of WHNPA photographers, past and present and their guests, McDonough called it an honor to recognize the important work that the photographers played in the democracy, capturing history and keeping the American people informed.
Turning his attention to the many uniformed military journalists, military guests and the military members serving as volunteers during the Gala, McDonough expressed how proud he is of what he called, the extraordinary men and women in uniform.
“I am personally inspired by them every day I walk into work. They defend us around the globe and protect what we hold most dear – our freedom, our security and our democratic values,” McDonough said. “Their sacrifice inspires us to live up to their example.”
McDonough told the audience that military journalists play a special role in connecting military men and women to their families, their communities and the country.
McDonough said, “These photojournalists have signed up to serve the country by telling stories of those who serve right alongside of them. In some cases, they risk their lives; in others, they capture the small moments that can mean the most.”
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf was recognized as the Military Photographer of the Year.
“Russ is a versatile photojournalist telling the story of the worldwide combat airlift command and the strong bond between the military and the people they serve,” McDonough said.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Ham was recognized as the Military Video Photographer of the Year. Ham also won the award in 2009 and 2012 and received two Emmy Award nominations for a documentary series produced for The Pentagon Channel.
McDonough said, “Robert is a veteran combat correspondent who has dedicated the last 14 years to telling the critical and compelling story of the American Soldier. Robert has deployed to Afghanistan and traveled throughout the world to find the action.”
During the Gala, a number of other photojournalists from newspapers, TV stations, online news outlets and university students were also recognized for their award-winning still imagery, video and multimedia work.
Washington’s WTTG-TV (Fox 5) Doug Wilkes received the 2014 WHNPA Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his outstanding contributions during his over three decade-long journalism career.
Wilkes often covers news events at JBAB, alongside JBAB Public Affairs personnel and other military journalists and in the nearby community outside of JBAB’s gates.
A brief slideshow featured Wilkes with various Presidents, including one in the Oval Office with President Clinton, in which both men are posed like the “Blues Brothers,” wearing sunglasses.
The entire audience surprised Wilkes when they covered their eyes with WHNPA-provided sunglasses to honor Wilkes’ ever-present sense of humor.
Soon after, Wilkes was presented with and donned a “Blues Brothers” -like hat and sunglasses, which was followed by his dancing on stage to the song, “Soul Man”, along with other WHNPA members.
Via video from New York, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who served as a White House correspondent in the 1990s, congratulated Wilkes and told the audience about his fondness for Wilkes and his behind the camera expertise.
Their deep relationship began and soon flourished upon Williams’ arrival in Washington and Wilkes was assigned as his cameraman.
To the delight of the audience, Williams in a humoristic manner, mentioned Wilkes’ unconventional manner of getting the job done and the day passed, while the two were cruising the streets in the TV news van, looking for news or going between assignments.
In his concluding remarks, McDonough said, “For their service, I thank the Defense Department photographers.”