An honorary retirement ceremony for Lt. Col. Zachary N. Barker was held on Feb. 23 at Hurlburt Field, Florida, to commemorate his 20 years of service with the U.S. Air Force. He is the son of Don and Libby Barker of Rocky Mount, Virginia, and formerly of Wilkesboro, and the grandson of Pauline Barker of Roaring River and the late Robert Barker, and the late L.P. and Pauline Johnson of Ronda.
Barker graduated from Wilkes Central High School in 1994 and attended the United States Air Force Academy, where graduated in 1998 with a B.S. in legal studies and a minor in aeronautical engineering. During undergraduate pilot training, he flew T-37s at Columbus AFB, MS and T-44s at NAS Corpus Cristi, Texas.
His first assignment was to RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, where he flew the MC-130P Combat Shadow as a member of the 67th Special Operations Squadron. During the period, he flew missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Joint Guard, Joint Forge, Northern Watch and Autumn Return.
In 2004, he cross-trained to the AC-130U Gunship assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field. During this time, he upgraded to aircraft commander and later was upgraded to instructor and evaluator pilot. While there, he was a life support officer, safety officer, plans officer, assistant chief of current operations and chief pilot.
In the summer of 2009, he took a one-year remote assignment to NATO Air Headquarters in Izmir, Turkey, serving as section head for the Special Air Operations Branch. His following assignment was to the 19th Special Operations Squadron as the chief of standardizations and evaluations, assistant director of operations, interim director of operations and chief pilot.
Barker is an evaluator pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours and more than 1,400 combat hours flown during operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Inherent Resolve deployments. As an evaluator pilot, he is responsible for the proficiency of the other pilots in the gunship community.
Additionally, he served as deputy director of the Regional Air Operations Control Center for Afghanistan for the International Security Assistance Force and squadron commander for the 4th Expeditionary Squadron.