Cmdr. J. Gregory "Honcho" Zilai
Cmdr. J. Gregory “Honcho” Zilai, a native of Brielle, New Jersey, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering. He completed his flight training in Milton, Florida, and earned his “Wings of Gold” in March 2009.
Zilai’s operational assignments include Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 48 where he served as the assistant operations officer and Detachment 1 maintenance officer, USS Anchorage (LPD 23) where he served as the AIRBOSS, and HSM-75 where he served as Detachment 1 officer in charge and squadron operations officer. He has completed deployments to 5th Fleet, the Horn of Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, and Western Pacific. During his time at sea, he has earned various unit awards, including the Battle “E” and NATO Medal, and was named the Association of Naval Aviation Aircrew of the Year, as well as the Naval Helicopter Association Aircrew of the Year (Deployed) in 2011.
His shore assignments include HSM-41, where he served as an instructor pilot and assistant training officer, and was named instructor pilot of the year in 2015. While there, he also completed his Master’s Degree in Systems Engineering Management from the Naval Postgraduate School. He then was assigned to Air Forces Northern/Continental Region NORAD where he served as a strategic planner and lead homeland defense planner, and was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal for his efforts as part of Operations Allies Refuge and Allies Welcome in 2021.
Zilai’s decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), the Air Medal with Combat “V” for Valor, and various personal and unit awards.