Maj. Chris Cisneros (Left), 104th Fighter Squadron Instructor Pilot, and Lt. Col. Paul C. Zurkowski (Second from left), 104th Fighter Squadron commander. (Air National Guard photo by TSgt. David Speicher/RELEASED)

Maj. Chris Cisneros (Left), 104th Fighter Squadron Instructor Pilot, and Lt. Col. Paul C. Zurkowski (Second from left), 104th Fighter Squadron commander. (Air National Guard photo by TSgt. David Speicher/RELEASED)


Aerospace Engineering alumnus Lt. Col. Paul C. Zurkowski, B.S. '85, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for providing air support that saved the lives of 90 American troops during an engagement in Afghanistan. The award is given to those serving in the Air Corps of the Army who distinguishes themselves with heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.

"I saw tracer fire and I knew I was getting shot at but I went right back into supporting the ground troops. I turned away from the ground fire and got right back into providing fire support," said Zurkowski who was piloting one of several A-10C Thunderbolt IIs sent in to cover troops that were in contact on the ground with the enemy.

"I landed at Bagram and had maintenance look the plane over for battle damage. That is when they found the two bullet holes in the airplane...I knew I had been shot at, but I didn't know I had been hit until then," said Zurkowski.

Zurkowski was a co-op with the Edgewood Aerodynamics Group at Edgewood Arsenal at Aberdeen while he attended the University of Maryland. After graduating with his aerospace engineering degree, he worked with the Edgewood group full-time for several years in the 1980s.  During that time, he took pilot training with the United States Air Force. 

After serving on active duty, he joined the Maryland Army National Guard flying A-10s. He has completed several tours in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan deployed from the 104th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.

"For an A-10 pilot there is no greater satisfaction then to meet the guys you helped that day and hear them say - 'You are the reason I am alive today,’"  said Zurkowski.

Zurkowski was honored with fellow pilot Major Christopher D. Cisneros during a ceremony at Warfield Air National Guard base on December 8, 2013.

When not serving with the National Guard, Zurkowski's 'day job' is flying Boeing 777s for United Airlines. His daughter Clare will soon be following in her father's footsteps. She is transferring from the Pratt Institute to the University of Maryland to study aerospace engineering.

To read the full story, visit the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard website.

Related Articles:
Celebrating Black Aerospace Engineers: James Lankford (M.S. ‘14, Ph.D. ‘18)
Celebrating Hispanic/Latinx Aerospace Engineers: Oliver Ortiz
Aerospace Engineering Inducts Class of 2023 Academy of Distinguished Alumni Members
UMD Alumnus Selected as Vertical Flight Society’s New Executive Director
Celebrating Women in Aerospace Engineering: Pauline Annen
A Maryland Built Lifetime
Celebrating Black Aerospace Engineers: Louise Ami Ahure Powell ('06, M.S. '09, Ph.D. '14)
Celebrating Black Aerospace Engineers: Jarred Young ('09, M.S. '13, Ph.D. '17)
UMD Alumna Inducted into Missouri S&T Academy of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineers
Brent Sherwood (M.S. ‘88) to Establish Space Architecture Endowed Undergraduate Research Award in Engineering

February 21, 2014

«Previous Story  



Current Headlines

Search Open for Full-Time Faculty Position in Space Exploration

Johns Hopkins APL, UMD Partner to Advance Space Engineering Research

Ashwani Gupta Named Royal Academy of Engineering Fellow

Maryland Engineering Ranks Among the Nation’s Top 20 Undergraduate Engineering Programs

Join Our Team! Search Open for UAS Operator

A “Lint Roller” for Moon Dust

Celebrating Hispanic/Latinx Aerospace Engineers: Oliver Ortiz

UMD's 40th Annual Convocation Honors Engineering Staff, Faculty

Students to Attempt Precision Balloon Launches During Eclipses

UMD Team Lands First Place in VFS Competition

Back to top  
CORE Home Clark School Home UMD Home Aerospace Engineering