Rear Admiral 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, and as director of Operations and Plans (N31) on the chief of Naval Operations staff in Washington. He assumed command of Naval Air Force Atlantic in February 2011. Naval Air Force Atlantic is composed of more than 40,000 men and women who maintain and operate five aircraft carriers, 80 aircraft squadrons flying 1,000 aircraft, and a number of supporting shore facilities. They provide combat-ready air forces to commanders operating from the North Pole to the Antarctic, and from the East Coast of the US to the Indian Ocean.
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.