ALEXANDRIA, VA – The American Legion Department of Virginia recently recognized two veterans from the Alexandria Fire Department and the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office with state-level awards for their outstanding service. Lieutenant Erin Mustian and Sergeant Cassandra Branch were named, respectively, Firefighter/EMT of the Year and Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in Virginia. Frank Hillyard, the Virginia Commander of the American Legion, presented the awards on July 16 at the Hilton Washington Dulles during their annual convention.
Sheriff Sean Casey and several of Sergeant Branch’s colleagues and family members were present when she received her award. Fire Chief Corey Smedley had the honor of accepting Lieutenant Mustian’s award on her behalf.
Both honorees have distinguished themselves throughout their careers while also providing guidance and training to those with whom they serve. Additionally, both are role models in the community and active in youth outreach and public safety education efforts.
Since joining the Sheriff’s Office in 2004 as a deputy, Sergeant Branch has taken on specialized assignments and positions beyond her basic duties. These include serving as a field training deputy, being a longtime member of the award-winning Honor Guard, and serving on the Sheriff’s Employee Advisory Committee, first as a member and ultimately becoming the president in 2017. She also earned elevations to the position of Master Deputy before being promoted to Sergeant earlier this year.
Sergeant Branch is genuinely concerned for others, whether they are community members, co-workers, or those entrusted to our custody. She has a degree in social work and is experienced in crisis intervention and American Sign Language, and she uses her skills to effectively communicate with people, particularly those who are having a difficult time.
Beyond her contributions at the Sheriff’s Office, Sergeant Branch has had a significant impact in the greater community. In her off-duty time, she is involved with organizations and programs that aid people who are blind or have low vision, helping behind the scenes and teaching exercise classes to those who have sight loss.
Lieutenant Mustian began her career with the Alexandria Fire Department in 2011 as a firefighter and then became a paramedic after successfully completing the Advanced Life Support (ALS) Internship and gaining the trust of the department’s Operational Medical Director (OMD).
She was later assigned as a recruit school instructor and eagerly helped new recruits study and develop skills critical for their success. Even after being promoted to Lieutenant in 2019, she mentored several firefighters to help them grow professionally. She also invested in her own growth, taking instructor courses and officer development courses for her own improvement and to benefit others.
Currently working as the Acting Captain of EMS Training, her responsibilities include keeping the department’s Basic Life Support and ALS providers certified, including scheduling required continuing education and finding instructors for each topic. In this position, she regularly participates in the department’s EMS Quality Management System Committee and helps to identify the department’s training needs based on trends in patient care and documentation. She also focuses on getting all EMS instructors updated in their certifications through high-quality, hands-on education and she is responsible as well for oversight of the ALS Internship/SimLab Coordinator Lieutenant to ensure the development of new ALS providers.
Sheriff Casey and Chief Smedley thank Alexandria American Legion Post 24 for honoring both women with local awards earlier this year and for nominating them for the state-level awards.
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