Citation to Accompany the award ofThe Air Force Cross
Zachary J. Rhyner
Senior Airman Zachary J. Rhyner distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed enemy of the United States in a valley in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on 6 April 2008. On that date, while assigned as Special Tactics Combat Controller, Airman Rhyner executed a day rotary-wing infiltration with his Special Forces team to capture high-value insurgents in a village on the surrounding mountains. The team was attacked in a well-coordinated and deadly ambush while climbing near-vertical terrain to reach their objective. Devastating sniper, machine gun, and rocket-propelled grenade fire poured down on the team from elevated and protected positions on all sides, immediately pinning down the assault force. Without regard for his life, Airman Rhyner placed himself between the most immediate threats and provided suppressive fire with his M-4 rifle to protect multiple wounded soldiers, while simultaneously directing close air support strikes. Airman Rhyner bravely withstood the hail of enemy fire to control eight Air Force fighters and four Army attack helicopters. Despite being hit three times by enemy fire during the opening exchange, wounded once
in the leg and hit twice in the chest, only to be protected by his equipment, he controlled more than 50 attack runs. Trapped on a 60 foot cliff even under constant enemy fire, Airman Rhyner repeatedly repelled the enemy with "danger close" air strikes, several within 100 meters of his position, showering his team with dirt and debris. Twice, his actions prevented his element from being overrun during the intense six and a half hour battle. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Airman Rhyner reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.