Most in the Rim Country picture Bryan Zumbro hurling a fastball or snapping a pigskin to an awaiting quarterback.
Now, however, Zumbro jockeys a joystick and maneuvers an assault rifle with the same confidence and ease he showed as the starting center on Payson’s 1998 state championship football team and ace pitcher on the 1999 3A champion baseball nine.
Recently promoted to captain in the United States Air Force, Zumbro is currently serving a six-month tour of duty in Iraq where his assignment is to, “help stand up their pilot training program.”
Currently he and a handful of other USAF instructor pilots are teaching Iraq military cadets to fly Cessna 172s and 208s.
“I’m in Kirkuk, about 100 miles north of Baghdad,” he said.
Because Kirkuk still crackles with tension, both ethnically and because of the war, Zumbro is required to tote a 9 mm sidearm with him at all times.
“24-7,” he said.
The base where he is stationed is a former major Iraq Air Force base with support facilities for two fighter squadrons.
Before being assigned to Iraq, Zumbro was an instructor pilot at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla.
He had been stationed at Vance since graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2004. When he returns to the states, Zumbro expects to be reassigned to Vance for a short period.
“I’ll be there for about four months, then I’m going to fly the F-16,” he said.
Growing up in Payson, he was an honor roll student and standout athlete in elementary, middle school and high school. After graduating in 2000, his athletic and academic excellence along with his citizenship earned Zumbro a USAF Academy scholarship, estimated at the time to be worth $376,000.
In October of 2006 at the Air Force Academy, Zumbro married Sara Langhals of Brentwood, Calif.