Guard Pilots Awarded DFC

Lt. Col. Paul Zurkowski and Maj. Christopher Cisneros, both A-10 pilots assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron, were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for their heroic actions during a firefight in Afghanistan. The pilots are credited with saving the lives of 90 US soldiers, according to a Dec. 11 release. Zurkowski and Cisneros continued to provide close air support to ground troops, including some danger-close strafing runs, even as weather conditions worsened and the enemy fired at their aircraft. “I had a difficult time seeing the friendlies because of the weather. There (were) lightning strikes and these guys really needed my assistance,” said Cisneros. He added, “Eventually two other A-10s joined the fight and we were able to execute coordinated 30mm attacks to neutralize the enemy and provide cover to HH-60 Pave Hawk casualty evacuation helicopters.” It wasn’t until the A-10s landed back at Bagram Airfield that Zurkowski realized his plane had been hit twice. “I saw tracer fire and I knew I was getting shot at but I went right back into supporting the ground troops,” said Zurkowski, the squadron commander. The DFC ceremony was held Dec. 8 at Warfield ANGB, Md.