Cmdr. Joe Zack grew up in Killington, Vermont, and attended Woodstock Union High School, graduating in 1994. Upon graduation, Zack earned his bachelor's degree in manufacturing engineering and participated in Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. He also earned a master's degree in national security and strategic studies from the United States Naval War College. In In the summer of 1998, Zack received his commission as an Ensign and was accepted into the Naval flight training program. He earned his Wings of Gold as a Navy helicopter pilot in May 2000.
Zack reported to the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Two (HS-2) at Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island, California, deploying aboard USS Constellation. While attached to HS-2, Zack completed two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including one station in the Arabian Gulf.
Zack qualified as an anti-submarine, anti-ship warfare, naval special warfare, and combat search and rescue aircraft commander. He reported to the "Vigilant Eagles" of Helicopter Training Squadron Eighteen (HT-18) at NAS Whiting Field in Milton, Florida, qualifying as standardization, basic familiarization, and Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) instructor.
He reported to the "Red Wolves" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 84 (HSC-84) at Naval Base Norfolk, Virginia, deploying four times with HSC 84 Det 1 Balad, Iraq in support of the Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Arabian Peninsula (CJSOAC-AP). Zack qualified as a combat aircraft commander and later as flight/mission lead where he logged over 500 combat hours and multiple missions to secure high value targets supporting special operations forces.
Zack reported to HSC-85 at Naval Air Station North Island where he served as the operations officer. As the qualified combat mission lead, he assisted in standing up the Navy's second dedicated Special Operations Support Squadron to support United States Special Operations Command Pacific. Assuming the role of commanding officer of HSC-85, the squadron supported Special Operations Pacific Command and Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.
Zack's staff tours included OPNAV N98 Pentagon, Director of Air Warfare helicopter and irregular warfare requirements, Commander, Naval Air Forces Reserve (CNAFR), Norfolk; Deputy to the Chief of Staff and Reserve Personnel, Navy, Manager; and CNAFR, San Diego Deputy Chief of Staff for Command Services and Manpower (N1).
Zack currently serves as the assistant chief of staff for reserve affairs at Chief of Naval Air Training in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Zack's personal decorations include Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star, Air Medal with 10 Strike Flights, Navy Commendation Medal with Gold Star, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and the Operation Iraqi Campaign Medal with Bronze Star.