Captain, United States Navy
Edward Zellem is an active duty U.S. Navy Captain who currently serves as Director of U.S. Central Command’s Intelligence Resources Division at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. He also is the award-winning author of three bilingual books of Afghan Proverbs, illustrated by students at a Kabul high school, a personal project that has gained international recognition.
Captain Zellem has served as a naval intelligence officer for 28 years in both operations and staff assignments. He was based in Japan for his first five years in the Navy, serving first as an intelligence officer onboard the aircraft carrier USS Midway, then as an analyst at the Fleet Ocean Surveillance Facility in Kami Seya. From 1990 – 1991, he deployed to Saudi Arabia for operations before and during Operation Desert Storm.
He then served at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C., where he helped develop and field the U.S. intelligence community’s first deployable “classified Internet” workstations, for which he and his program won a national award from the Director of Central Intelligence. He then joined the U.S. Sixth Fleet staff in Gaeta, Italy, where for two years he operated throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea from the flagship USS LaSalle. He then served in Ottawa, Canada, for three years as a DIA liaison officer to Canadian Military Intelligence.
Captain Zellem then served as Deputy Intelligence Director of the Joint Warfare Analysis Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, deploying to Iraq twice. Afterward he served as Ship’s Intelligence Officer for the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, based in Everett, Washington. From 2006 – 2008 he led the ship’s 120-person intelligence and cryptologic team on two deployments to the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, including combat air operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He then returned to Washington, D.C., as the cyber analysis intelligence chief for a Joint Task Force charged with leading the cyber defense of the Department of Defense’s Global Information Grid.
In 2009, Captain Zellem was selected for a Joint Chiefs of Staff experimental program that created a small cadre of Afghan experts to individually embed with Afghans in their own language, culture and environment. Captain Zellem learned the Dari language and culture in a full immersion program and deployed to Afghanistan for a year and a half. This included a year on President Hamid Karzai’s staff inside the Afghan Presidential Palace as the founder and first director of the Government of Afghanistan’s first “White House Situation Room.”
As a personal project, Captain Zellem is the award-winning author of three bilingual books of Afghan Proverbs in Dari and Pashto, published in 15 languages and available in more than 100 countries. The books were illustrated by Afghan high school students, and are being used to teach English in more than 200 Afghan schools and for refugee integration in several European countries. They have gained significant media attention and a variety of international book honors, including awards from Writer’s Digest, the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Military Writers Society of America, the IPPY Awards, Readers’ Favorite, the London Book Festival and others. Net proceeds support Afghan-led literacy programs. More information can be found at www.afghansayings.com.
Captain Zellem attended the University of Virginia on a football scholarship, earning All-ACC Academic Team honors and a Bachelor of Arts in foreign affairs. He holds three master’s degrees: Master of Public Administration, Auburn University at Montgomery; Master of Science, strategic intelligence, Defense Intelligence College; and Master of Science, operations science, Air Command and Staff College. He resides in Tampa with his wife Cindy and their three children.