29 September


Military Communicator Awards

The Company of Communicators held its annual Military Communicator Awards in the City of London early this month.

Rear Admiral Jude Terry OBE, Navy Director of People, presented the awards for outstanding achievements in communications by military personal.

Held at a black-tie dinner at the Honourable Artillery Company’s Armoury House, they were attended by senior representatives from all three services before a gathering of the communications industry’s leading professionals.

The Operational Communicator of the Year went to Leading Rate Ben Shread, Royal Navy, Mobile News Team. Ben was part of the three-strong Mobile News Team deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Pitting at short notice.

Highlights include operating in the Coalition Press Information Centre in the 2003 Iraq conflict and subsequently being appointed as the Royal Navy’s spokesman in the Ministry of Defence. On completion, he led the naval online/web engagement strategy for two years. In 2012 he deployed to Bahrain with responsibility for the joint communication strategies of all Royal Navy activities east of Suez as well as the multinational Combined Maritime Forces. A year later he was posted to Afghanistan as Deputy Chief of Public Affairs for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and coordinated the communications activities of NATO’s campaign in Afghanistan.

Mark has spent the last seven years leading the Media and Communication activity for Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) where he is responsible for delivery of communication plans that promote over 20 complex overseas military operations and exercises to UK and foreign audiences. Leading a globally deployed team he has designed and implemented ambitious strategies to increase global content generation and uplift MOD messaging to both friendly and adversarial audiences whilst managing effective media responses to numerous global crisis events, the most recent and noteworthy being Operation Pitting.

Key endeavours over his time in PJHQ have included orchestrating the media aspects of NATO troop deployments for Enhanced Forward Presence and in support of United Nations, the most recent being to Mali. He has additionally run UK military communication activities across the Middle East in support of countering the ISIS narrative, and current information operations aspects of the Russia’s disinformation campaign. In 2019 Mark was awarded an MBE for his services to Defence Communications.”

He was nominated by Commander Sam Hearn, DDC – UKStratCom Liaison SO1.

The Army Military Communicator of the Year award went to Capt. Helena Holden, Army Communications, Campaign Manager. Helena has been working with Army Comms as a Campaign Manager for the last three years. The ultimate reservist, she has brought a background in PR as well as previous regular experience to deliver an innovation campaign well beyond expectations. She regularly shifts her availability to match changing Army priorities.

Helena has routinely elevated her outputs to produce work more commonly associated with a senior Maj or Lt Col. She has been prodigious in her work, driving forward when others were stalling and impressively controlling a vast portfolio with multiple complex stakeholders to deliver the campaign that illustrates the British Army is modernising. Her work has illustrated that through uncertain times, rapid technological change and the shifting ways of war, we can depend on the British Army to protect our nation. Throughout she has also worked hard to develop her comms skills and ensure her campaign work is always aligned with the OASIS GCS model.

She was nominated by Colonel Dominic Coombes, Asst Head Army Communications, (International, Communications & Engagement), who said: Working alongside her colleagues, all of whom are senior to her, Helena always produces a level of work that I would expect of a far higher grade. Her attention to detail and knowledge within the Innovation field is exceptional and is often relied upon across Army Communications, Army Staff London and the wider Army Directorates. From the opening of the Defence Battlelab and launch of the Land Industrial Strategy down to the tactical with 2 YORKS experimentation and trials – Capt. Holden has designed and landed her campaigns brilliantly.

“In my view as the head of Army Communications Capt. Holden stands head and shoulders above her peers (and many of her superiors) and so must be recognised for her outstanding communication and campaign planning within the Innovation field. Recognition of her work would be welcome across the Army Comms team. Diligent, driven and always prepared to give up her time for others, she is an incredibly popular member of the team and widely respected across all ranks and grades. She has set the bar and is truly the best in class for the Army.”

The Royal Air Force Military Communicator of the Year Award went to Sqn Ldr Russ Keen, Air Media and Comms, Media Operations. For much of the year, he has also covered the role of his supervisor due to gapping.

He has consistently performed significantly above his service role. Leading the Media Operations team, he ensured an under-resourced unit worked through the incredible challenge of providing the Air M&C contribution to Operation Pitting, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Operation Scorpious, the UK’s support to Ukraine.

Throughout both intense events Russ was a key player, coordinating and interacting with multiple internal and external stakeholders. His ability to remain calm under pressure, to speak truth to power and to identify communication opportunities that may otherwise have been missed has been invaluable in telling the Royal Air Force’s story.

During Operation Pitting, he was instrumental in generating numerous pieces that offered a unique insight into the RAF’s contribution, focusing on both the people involved and the capabilities utilised. During Operation Scorpious he rapidly discovered a series of limitations in the challenging and constantly evolving release approval process; he provided solutions to these that allowed RAF media output to continue in a timely and informative manner despite the convoluted requirements.

He was nominated by Gp. Capt. Anne-Marie Houghton, DACOS Air Media and Comms, who said: Since the arrival of a new supervisor, Squadron Leader Keen has provided advice and guidance to them to help steer the continued output while also coordinating and producing a prodigious level of content to increase awareness of many additional exercises and operations. This has been an exceptional year in which Squadron Leader Keen’s contribution has been critical in ensuring that the Royal Air Force has remained at the forefront of Defence communications.”

The Civil Servant Military Communicator of the Year went to Katherine Toone, Directorate of Defence Comms, News Team (Ops). Katherine has served as both Chief and Senior Communications Officer on the operations desk in the Defence Directorate of Communications (DDC) throughout the year to 30 Jun 2022.She is the driving force behind Defence’s success in demonstrating its value to the nation, showing levels of professionalism, leadership and, most crucially, effect well beyond that expected of someone of her grade. Not one to be put off by an administrative or process challenge, she has worked tirelessly with other Government departments to deliver coherent and productive results, helping to demonstrate the UK’s values on an international stage.

Katherine led collaboration with DHSC to ensure that Defence’s support to civil authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic was both recognised and delivered real strategic effect, demonstrating the military’s contribution to keeping the public safe.

She mentored the National Security Communications Team through the politically sensitive withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent evacuation, positively changing perceptions of the military and demonstrating the military’s ability to operate in challenging environments.

She was nominated by Lt Col Bayard Barron, Army Communications, SO1 Plans, who said: Katherine was central to wider cross Government and public understanding of the rationale behind the radical military transformation set out in the Defence Command Paper that followed the Government’s Integrated Review, delivering multiple media facilities attended by Ministers and chiefs.

“Most impressively of all, she has led all communications outputs around UK Defence’s contribution to supporting Ukraine, including Ministerial visits, briefings, engaging with journalists and coordinating with Defence Intelligence to provide accurate updates on the situation.”

Runners up awards were also presented to:

· Lt Francesca Clarke, Royal Navy Reserves (Operational Communicator of the Year and Royal Navy Communicator of the Year)

· Cpl Hamish Gorsuch-Wright, Royal Logistics Corps (Army Communicator of the Year)

· Sqn Ldr Tony Newton, RAF Media Reserves (RAF Communicator of the Year)

· Paul Breakwell, Head of Comms, Dstl (Civil Service Communicator of the Year)

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