Zachary B. Zeiner

The President of the United States takes great pleasure in presenting Captain Zachary B. Zeiner the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as C-5 Instructor Aircraft Commander, 22d Airlift Squadron, 60th Operations Group, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis Air Force Base, on 8 January 2004. On that date, after performing a night tactical approach and landing at Baghdad International Airport, the C-5 aircraft was loaded with over 130,000 pounds of cargo and fifty-two combat troops from the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. While executing a tactical departure out of the Baghdad airfield, Captain Zeiner and his crew came under a direct attack from hostile ground fire which destroyed the number four engine immediately upon impact. Under extreme duress, Captain Zeiner directed an emergency engine shut down and configured the aircraft for a prompt emergency return to Baghdad International Airport. Maintaining the highest degree of situational awareness, Captain Zeiner decisively assessed the the damage from the attack, established clear communications in the cockpit and troop cargo compartment, and expertly executed a flawless landing at Baghdad International. While operating in this highly hostile enemy environment, Captain Zeiner successfully communicated vital information to ground forces, which resulted in the subsequent capture of the suspected perpetrators of the enemy attack. Despite these catastrophic circumstances, Captain Zeiner’s airmanship and decisive actions were critical in the safe return of the entire C-5 crew, aircraft, cargo and troop personnel without injury. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Zeiner reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.