Chief boom operator receives Bronze Star medal
by Tech. Sgt. Ray Padgett
Master Sgt. Christopher D. Zaher, chief boom operator with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, was presented a bronze star medal during the Flag Ceremony of Air Force birthday week Sept. 18 in the base theater.
Sergeant Zaher received the award for his role as the mission support team chief assigned to a Tanker Airlift Control Element in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
President Roosevelt authorized the Bronze Star Medal by Executive Order 9419 dated February 4, 1944, retroactive to December 7, 1941 in order to recognize ground troops in the same manner as the flying cross recognized aircrew personnel. Sergeant Zaher's team landed at an austere airfield deep in Pakistan where members were exposed to hostile attacks and riots in the city adjacent to the airfield.
Despite receiving enemy sniper fire in blackout conditions, they immediately began performing equipment offloads critical to special operations teams.
A TALCE consists of a cadre of operations and communications personnel, complemented by other mission support specialists from aerial port, maintenance, weather and security. TALCE teams are trained in aircrew management, aircraft flight following, maintenance of aircraft, and the loading and unloading of aircraft.
In addition to his normal duties Sergeant Zaher directed the construction of an emergency-landing platform for a CH-47 In-Flight-Emergency, limiting the damage and possible loss of life to the aircrew.
After two weeks back in the U.S. -- one of those spent away from home doing aircrew training -- he was recalled to the TALCE duty and redeployed to Afghanistan.
With hostile fire and threats from rival warlords battling over the airfield, Sergeant Zaher expertly balanced safety and force protection to conduct air operations in a war-torn country while living under extremely precarious living conditions.
He said he saw first-hand results of what our country was accomplishing, noting the differences in the freedom the Afghan people displayed from when he arrived and when he left.
Sergeant Zaher credits his team members for the mission accomplishment. He said team members from active duty, guard and the reserve worked with the same seamless professionalism to get the job done.