Vice Adm. Branch, a native of Long Beach, Miss., graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1979 and earned a master’s degree in International Relations from the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.
A naval aviator, his operational assignments include Light Attack Squadrons 15 and 37, USS Forrestal (CV 59), and Strike Fighter Squadron 37. He served as executive and commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 15, executive officer in USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), commanding officer in USS Coronado (AGF 11) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68), and commander of Carrier Strike Group One/Carl Vinson Strike Group. During those tours, Branch deployed with both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets and has logged combat time in A7s and F18s over Grenada, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Iraq. He participated in Operations Urgent Fury, Earnest Will, Southern Watch, Deliberate Force, Iraqi Freedom, and led the initial Navy efforts for Haiti earthquake relief in Operation Unified Response.
Ashore, Branch has served as an instructor in the A7 and F18 Fleet Replacement Squadrons, the Joint Staff in Washington, completed Navy Nuclear Power Training, served as executive assistant to the Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet, Director of Operations and Plans (N31) on the Chief of Naval Operations staff in Washington, and Commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic. He was appointed to the rank of Vice Admiral in July 2013 as he assumed office as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance, and the 65th Director of Naval Intelligence.
Branch's decorations include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Strike Flight Air Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V”, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various unit and campaign awards.