Post-3rd Battalion 3rd Marines
Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device
For heroic service in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as Commanding Officer, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, 1st Marine Division (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) Afghanistan from 1 May 2010 to 30 November 2010 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Captain Zavala planned and led five named combat operations against enemy forces in Aynak and Trek Nawa in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province while simultaneously engaging key local leaders, Afghan National Security Forces, and the local population. He exhibited complete disregard for his own personal safety during four kinetic engagements while exposing himself to effective enemy fire in order to successfully lead the Marines under his charge. While on a clearing mission, he led a company with Afghan Soldiers in response to a downed AH-1W Cobra by sprinting more than three kilometers in full combat equipment, securing the site for 24 continuous hours which prevented the deceased pilots from being taken into enemy hands. He personally coordinated with the company, battalion, and division mobile elements to provide site security for the downed helicopter. He led the company during ten troops-in-contact, 35 small arms engagements, and successfully targeted eight Improvised Explosive Device emplacers using mortars, artillery, and aviation assets as well as responding to 16 Improvised Explosive Device strikes, 19 Improvised Explosive Device finds, 14 caches, six detainees, and six friendly medical evacuations. By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication to duty, Captain Zavala reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.