From the town of Medford, Wisconsin, Zachary Rhyner, enlisted on 31 May 2004 and completed Combat Control training in 2007. Just six months out of training and on his first deployment, he and a combined assault force performed a day time rotary-wing infiltration in a remote valley of Afghanistan to capture a high ranking commander of a militant group. Shortly after landing, the assault force was ambushed, split in two on either side of a river and pinned down. Devastating sniper, machine gun, and rocket-propelled grenade fire poured down on the team from elevated and protected positions on all sides. Rhyner was shot twice in the chest, his protective vest stopped the two bullets from causing a mortal injury and once in the leg. Despite being wounded within the first fifteen minutes of the battle Rhyner provided suppressive while fellow teammates were extracted from the line of fire and controlled eight United States Air Force fighters and four United States Army attack helicopters until the assault force was evacuated 6 and a half hours later.
From that battel, he became was the second ever, and first living Combat Controller to receive the Air Force Cross. After 11 years, six deployments, three Purple Hearts and one Air Force Cross, Tech. Sgt. Zachary J. Rhyner, Special Tactics combat controller, medically retired due to injuries sustained in battle, Aug. 21, 2015. In addition to his Air Force Cross Rhyner is the recipient of two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star Medal and the Air Force Combat Action Medal among others. Combat Controller,