VICENZA, Italy - If you’ve forgotten more about surface transportation than most in the business will ever know, it makes sense that your supervisor would nominate you for a prestigious award, right? In Chris Zahner’s case that is exactly what happened. Zahner, U.S. Army Africa’s (USARAF) Logistics Office Chief of Surface Transportation, was recently named U.S. Army’s Transportation Corps Regimental Civilian of the Year for 2011.
Todd Johnston, USARAF’s chief of mobility, said he nominated Zahner because he doesn’t just know about ‘moving’ things, he knows how it should route, who to talk to, who does it best in which port, and which office/minister/official to coordinate USARAF cargo movement through borders smoothly.
“The recognition of one of our own reflects well on the quality of personnel and work being done in all of USARAF and AFRICOM,” Johnston said. “As a nascent Army Service Component Command and Combatant Command, it's imperative that we be able to tell our story and validate the significant investment the DoD is putting forth as we seek to engage with our African partners -- plus it highlights the progress we've made over the last 24 months and the way ahead,” he said.
Bottom line, Zahner is fully dedicated to maturing DoD transport operations in Africa as well as the knowledge and experience to do so, according to USARAF Chief of Logistics Col. Michael Balser.
“This is recognition from our DA-level transportation community on the complexity of the African mobility environment, and an affirmation of Chris Zahner's tangible and immediate contributions,” Balser said.
In numerous deployments to Africa, discerning commercial capability and customs issues, Chris continually punches above his weight class.
“As the single authoritative source for movement execution in U.S. Army Africa Command, Chris lends his expertise repetitively to U.S. Africa Command, other services, and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa,” Balser said. “He is a role-model employee for the command whose supervisory execution, high level of motivation, responsiveness to employees, and vision are without parallel,” he said.
Africa is a very large continent and although USARAF’s Logistics Mobility Branch is a small organization, according to Zahner, it’s a great team, with one purpose and one heart.
“My co-workers in the Mobility Branch have supported all efforts continuously in the development of the Surface Transportation Section into being the lead component organization for coordinating and executing all intra-theater surface movements and distribution for all U.S. military services for the entire continent of Africa,” Zahner said. “If there is a truck, railcar or barge hauling U.S. military equipment or supplies anywhere in Africa, then our Mobility Surface Section is responsible for that movement, and without the support of my co-workers, we would have never gotten down that long road to Kitgum, Uganda or Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, or Dire Dawa, Ethiopia."
Zahner said he is honored to be selected as the Transportation Corps Regimental Civilian of the Year for 2011.
“Being selected as the top Civilian Transporter among all these outstanding logisticians is a great honor,” Zahner said. “I know most of my peers and they are all superb employees and real professionals -- I consider this award to be the greatest honor of my civil service career.”
The Transportation Corps Regimental Civilian of the Year is awarded each year to the top-performing Department of the Army Civilian (DAC) Transporter. There is one award given in this category worldwide by the U.S. Army Transportation Corps each year. Presentation of the award is given at Fort Lee, Va., the home of U.S. Army Logistics.
With a truly phenomenal grasp of every aspect of his professional field, Zahner always demonstrates unparalleled professional competence in planning all surface movements in support of USARAF's operations. Following is a list of some of Zahner’s accomplishments:
Zahner planned all surface movements in support of Joint Chiefs of Staff Exercises MedFlag 10, MedReach11, Atlas Drop11 and Natural Fire 11 field exercises, and real-world contingencies throughout the AFRICOM AOR.
He spearheaded the initiative to establish surface transportation tenders for AFRICOM so the command could meet its intra-theater, surface-lift requirements in an efficient and effective manner throughout the AOR.
He deftly brought together parties from AFRICOM, commercial partners and non-governmental agencies to ensure the most economical and effective use of the limited logistical assets in countries on the continent of Africa.
Zahner initiated the establishment of Blanket Purchase Agreements with commercial surface transportation companies for the movement of cargo throughout Africa and leveraged existing third-party contracts available to the command, thereby maximizing use of commercial assets.
His expertise in all aspects of African transportation operations contributed to establishing a more defined In-Transit Visibility (ITV) system for surface movements in the AFRICOM AOR, and was instrumental in establishing guidelines on integrating existing ITV systems into the complex Theater logistical doctrine.
On the ground in Africa, Zahner established and maintained valuable professional relationships with our commercial industry partners, working with and thru them on a daily basis for the movement of cargo to and through Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Mozambique, Malawi, Cameroon and Chad.
Finally, Zahner greatly furthered the development of the Adaptive Logistics Network with our industry logistics and supply chain partners and non-governmental agencies such as USAID and NATO to develop and implement new approaches to logistical challenges in the field.