"He led a Sapper Company in a time of war," said Oberkirsch, commander of the 1140th Engineer Battalion. "So I knew he was ready for this challenge and was more than up to the task. He stepped up to the plate then, and I know he will do so now."
On Saturday, Zinn was named commander of the 1140th's Headquarters Company during a change-of-command ceremony at the National Guard armory in Cape Girardeau. Zinn replaces Capt. Michael Pierson, who has commanded the unit since July 1, 2007.
Most company commander assignments are typically about two years. Zinn, a 38-year-old resident of the St. Louis area, had been the executive officer of the headquarters company. Zinn served in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 1138th Engineer Company (Sapper) as a platoon leader and then executive officer.
As executive officer, Zinn filled in for the company commander on several occasions in Iraq, gaining experience that will serve him well. Oberkirsch said the 1138th's company commander commented that, other things, Zinn had exceptional organizational skills.
Zinn served in the active duty U.S. Air Force for seven years before returning to St. Louis, where he got a civilian job as a computer programmer. He joined the Guard, attended Officer Candidate School for 18 months and joined the 220th Engineer Company as a platoon leader before he was deployed with the 1138th and then joined the 1140th.
Zinn said he is taking over a company that has been very well led by Pierson.
"The company has been pretty well prepared and in some very capable hands," Zinn said. "My job will be to maintain what we have and improve where I can."
Zinn described his management style as hands-off. He sees his job as to let the noncommissioned officers and others in leadership positions know what he expects.
"I'll let them know what I need to happen," Zinn said. "I'm not going to be in their faces."
The change of command ceremony -- one of the two during the weekend at the armory including Lt. Col. Oberkirsch's ceremony as the new battalion commander -- is a military tradition that is rich with symbolism and heritage dating back to medieval times, said Maj. Scot Ratcliff, the 1140th's administrative officer.
The unit colors were passed from Pierson to Zinn during the ceremony, which Ratcliff said symbolized the transfer of authority and responsibility for the unit from one commander to another. Also during the ceremony, Zinn's wife was presented with a dozen yellow roses.
Zinn is married to Tonja and they have seven children, including triplets and twins: Brandon, Christopher, Jessica, all 16; Kaitlyn and Dakota, each 14; Evan, 6; and Leah, 3.
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