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Peoria content creators land 1st place in 2020 National Guard Media Contest

Airman receiving award.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason Grabiec, right, a public affairs specialist with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, receives the first place award in photojournalism for the 2020 National Guard Media Contest from wing commander Col. Daniel McDonough in Peoria, Illinois, Nov. 6, 2021. The award recognized outstanding achievement in furthering the objectives of the Air National Guard and department of Defense information programs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

Airman receiving award.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Pagan II, right, a public affairs specialist with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, receives the first place award in the video spot category for the 2020 National Guard Media Contest from wing commander Col. Daniel McDonough in Peoria, Illinois, Nov. 6, 2021. The award recognized outstanding achievement in furthering the objectives of the Air National Guard and department of Defense information programs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

PEORIA, Ill. --

Two public affairs specialists with the 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, received 1st place awards in the 2020 National Guard Bureau Media Awards Competition in Peoria, Illinois, Nov. 6, 2021.

The Air National Guard division of the annual competition recognizes the best work in graphic design, photography, video, written work and musical products from PA Airmen across the ANG’s entire 54 states and territories.

Staff Sgt. Jason Grabiec, an instructor and the campus photographer at Eastern Illinois University with five years in the PA career field, received the 1st place selection in the photojournalism category for his “COVID-19 Response from McCormick Place, Chicago” news feature and photos. The April 9, 2020, multimedia piece tells the story of how the Illinois National Guard transformed the McCormick Place Convention Center into an alternate care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's a real honor to be selected for this award from among my many talented colleagues in Public Affairs,” Grabiec said. “Having the opportunity to document the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in our region and the chance to tell the story of the world's greatest Air Force is an absolute privilege. Sharing with the world a small snippet of the hard work that was done during this challenging time is difficult to convey, but it is my hope that we in Public Affairs are able to shed some light on those incredible efforts."

Staff Sgt. Joseph Pagan II, a freelance photographer who cross-trained into PA from the radio frequency transmissions systems career field in 2019, received the 1st place selection in the video spot category. His Nov. 16, 2020, video piece entitled “Faces of the Defender: Flight Engineer,” illustrates the flight engineer career field from the perspective of a C-130H Hercules aircrew member assigned to Peoria’s 169th Airlift Squadron.

“I’ll never forget Tech. Sgt. Hildebrand’s excitement describing the flight engineer career field to me. He loved his job and knew how important it was,” Pagan said. “Telling the Air National Guard’s story through the eyes of her service members is one of the biggest responsibilities the military has given me. Receiving this award brings immense pride and joy that not only am I doing the job as a public affairs specialist, but I am doing it well.”

182nd Airlift Wing commander Col. Daniel McDonough presented the awards during the Headquarters roll call Saturday of the wing’s November regularly scheduled drill.

“These two Airmen are just another shining example of why Peoria is such a special place for the Air Force,” McDonough said. “We train to deliver mission accomplishment — whether it’s airlift, cyber, special warfare, or anything in between. Part of Public Affairs’ mission is to tell that story. So, I could not be more proud that these guys were recognized for the fantastic work they bring to the table every day.”

“Your outstanding achievements in furthering the objectives of the Air National Guard and Department of Defense Information Programs represent the highest standards of public affairs work produced in 2020 and reflects highly on your professional skills, the 182nd Airlift Wing and the Illinois Air National Guard. Congratulations on a job well done,” said NGB Public Affairs director Tracy O’Grady-Walsh in the award narratives.