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.
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