General Zinni joined the Marine Corps in 1961.
He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in 1965 upon graduation from
Villanova University. After completion of The Basic School he was
assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, where he served as a Platoon
Commander, Company Executive Officer, and Company Commander in the
1st Battalion, 6th Marines. He also served in a number of other
billets during the late 1960s.
In 1970, the General returned to Vietnam as a Company Commander
in 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, where he was wounded, evacuated,
and eventually reassigned to the 2nd Marine Division. During this
tour he made several deployments to the Caribbean. In 1974, he was
assigned to Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps, where he served in
the Officer Assignment Branch of the Manpower Department.
In 1978, General Zinni served as the Operations Officer of the 3rd
Battalion, 2nd Marines, Executive Officer of the 1st Battalion,
8th Marines, Executive Officer of the 8th Marines and Commanding
Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. During this tour, he
made several deployments to the Mediterranean and to Northern Europe.
In 1981, he was assigned as an instructor at the Marine Corps Command
and Staff College at Quantico, Virginia. He was next assigned to
the Operations Division at Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps where
he served as the Head of the Special Operations and Terrorism Counteraction
Section and as the Head, Marine Air-Ground Task Force Concepts and
During 1986, he was selected as a fellow on the Chief of Naval Operations
Strategic Studies Group. From 1987-89, General Zinni served on Okinawa
as the Regimental Commander of the 9th Marines and the Commanding
Officer of the 35th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which was twice deployed
to the Philippines to conduct emergency security and disaster relief
operations. Upon his return to the U.S., he was assigned as the
Chief of Staff of the Marine Air-Ground Training and Education Center
His initial general officer assignment was as the Deputy Director
of Operations at the U.S. European Command. During this tour, General
Zinni was involved in planning and executing evacuation operations
in Zaire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone as well as Operations PROVEN
FORCE and PATRIOT DEFENDER in support of the Gulf War. In 1991,
he served as Chief of Staff and Deputy Commanding General of Combined
Task Force PROVIDE COMFORT during the Kurdish relief effort in Turkey
and Iraq. He also served as the Military Coordinator for Operation
PROVIDE HOPE, the relief effort for the former Soviet Union. During
1992-93, he served as the Director of Operations for the United
Task Force Somalia for Operation RESTORE HOPE. Also in 1993, he
served as the Assistant to the U.S. Special Envoy to Somalia during
Operation CONTINUE HOPE. General Zinni was assigned as Deputy Commanding
General, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico,
VA, from 1992-94.
General Zinni became Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command
in 1996. At that time, the command became involved in Operation
DESERT STRIKE, a series of cruise missile attacks against surface-to-air
missile sites and command centers in Iraq. The command was also
involved in Operation DESERT FOCUS, a comprehensive response to
an increased terrorist threat in Saudi Arabia. Operations SOUTHERN
WATCH and Maritime Intercept Operations (MIO) were also in effect
to enforce UN Security Council resolutions against Iraq.
On 13 August 1997, General Zinni became the sixth United States
Commander in Chief, Central Command. In addition to continuing Operation
SOUTHERN WATCH and the MIO, he conducted Operation NOBLE RESPONSE
in 1998 in response to flooding in Kenya. Other humanitarian operations
included demining in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen and Jordan.
In response to continued Iraqi intransigence over United Nations
weapons inspections, General Zinni initiated Operation DESERT THUNDER
in 1997. This led to an agreement in Baghdad between Saddam Hussein
and Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on 24 February
98. After the August, 1998 terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassies
in Kenya and Tanzania, General Zinni conducted Operation RESOLUTE
RESPONSE and activated a joint task force in Kenya to assist in
recovery support. Simultaneously, General Zinni conducted Operation
INFINITE REACH against the terrorist infrastructure in Sudan and
Afghanistan. Iraq's continued noncompliance with United Nations
Security Council resolutions caused USCENTCOM to conduct Operation
DESERT VIPER in November, 1998 followed by Operation DESERT FOX
in December. As a result of the destruction of key facilities and
specialized equipment during several days of combat operations,
Iraq's ballistic missile program was set back several years. CENTCOM
also demonstrated continued commitment to the physical security
of Kuwait by conducting periodic Exercises INTRINSIC ACTION and
IRIS GOLD, as well as Operation DESERT SPRING.
While serving as CINCENT, General Zinni participated and assisted
in numerous diplomatic efforts. He worked directly with former National
Security Advisor Anthony Lake in efforts to prevent Ethiopia and
Eritrea from resorting to armed conflict over a border dispute.
In June 1999, General Zinni's personal mission at the height of
the Kargil crisis helped influence Pakistan's decision to withdraw
and set the stage for important revisions to official US contact
policy in South Asia.
He has attended The Basic School, Army Special Warfare School, Amphibious
Warfare School, Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the
National War College. He holds a bachelor's degree in Economics,
a Master of Arts degree in International Relations, and a Master
of Arts degree in Management and Supervision.
General Zinni's decorations include: the Defense Distinguished Service
Medal with oak leaf cluster; the Distinguished Service Medal; the
Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the Bronze
Star Medal with Combat "V;" the Purple Heart; the Meritorious
Service Medal; the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V;"
the Navy Achievement Medal; the Combat Action Ribbon; the Order
of Excellence of the Republic of Egypt; the Order of Kuwait; the
National Reunification Medal of Yemen; and the Medal of Bahrain.