Douglas A. Zembiec
(April 14, 1973 – May 11, 2007)
Major Douglas Zembiec died May 11, 2007. He was know as the “Lion of Fallujah” and also referred to as the “Unapologetic Warrior.” He was an officer in the United States Marine Corps and member of the CIA’s Special Activities Division’s Ground Branch who was killed in action while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is best known for his actions during Operation Vigilant Resolve, which were detailed in the book No True Glory: A Front-line Account of the Battle of Fallujah by Bing West and for an article that ran in the Wall Street Journal following his death.
He attended the United States Naval Academy where he was a collegiate wrestler compiling a 95–21–1 record and finishing as a two-time NCAA All-American. His coach, Reginald Wicks, referred to him as “the best-conditioned athlete I’ve ever been around.” Zembiec graduated from the Academy on May 31, 1995; then served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1995 until killed in action in 2007 — serving combat tours in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Upon graduation from the Naval Academy, Doug was commissioned as a 2ndLt. in the USMC. After finishing The Basic School, and the Infantry Officer’s Course, he was assigned to 1st Batt./6th Marines as a rifle platoon commander in Bravo Company, starting April 1996. After successfully passing the Force Reconnaissance indoctrination in June 1997, he was transferred to 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. As part of his training for Force Reconnaissance, he completed Army Airborne School as well as the Marine Combatant Diver Course. He served for two and a half years as a platoon commander, eight months as an interim company commander, and one month as an operations officer. Doug’s Force Reconnaissance platoon was among the first special operations forces to enter Kosovo during Operation Joint Guardian in June 1999.
In September 2000, he was transferred to the Amphibious Reconnaissance School (ARS) located in Ft. Story, Virginia and served as the Assistant Officer-In-Charge (AOIC) for two years.
In 2001, Zembiec competed in the Armed Forces Eco-Challenge as team captain of Team Force Recon Rolls Royce.
From ARS, Zembiec was selected to attend the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia graduating in May 2003. Following the Expeditionary Warfare School he took command of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division in July 2003.
He was nicknamed the “Lion of Fallujah” as a result of his heroic actions leading Echo Company 2/1 during Operation Vigilant Resolve in 2004. As a rifle company commander, he led 168 Marines and Navy Corpsmen in the first conventional ground assault into Fallujah, Iraq. He earned the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device. He also received two Purple Hearts due to wounds incurred in action.
He turned over command of Echo Company in November 2004 and served as an assistant operations officer at the Marine Corps’ First Special Operations Training Group (1st SOTG) where he ran the urban patrolling / Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) and tank-infantry training packages for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Iraq. Zembiec transferred from 1st SOTG to the Regional Support Element, Headquarters, Marine Corps on June 10, 2005. His promotion to Major was effective on July 1, 2005.
Doug was serving in the CIA’s Special Activities Division (renamed Special Activities Center in 2016) Ground Branch in Iraq when he was killed by small arms fire while leading a raid in Baghdad on May 11, 2007.
On May 11, 2009, a petition was presented to the Secretary of the Navy to have the next Arleigh Burke class destroyer to be commissioned named after Zembiec.
The swimming pool located at the Marine Corps’ Henderson Hall is named in honor of Major Zembiec.
By order of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Douglas A. Zembiec Award for Outstanding Leadership in Special Operations was created on April 11, 2011 to annually recognize the Marine officer who “best exemplifies outstanding leadership as a Team Leader in the Marine Corps Special Operations Community.”