In the early hours of 27 April 2017, U. S. Army Rangers, of the 75th Ranger Regiment were on a mission against the Commander of ISIS in Afghanistan. They soon found themselves nearly surrounded in a pitched battle and fighting for their lives. In a desperate call for air support, two F-16’s from the 79th Fighter Squadron, known as “The Bold Tigers,” entered the intense battle.
Over the next several hours, Viper 61 and 62, flown by Captains John “Slap” Nygard and Salvador “Gru” Cruz, rained steel fire down on the enemy, and coordinated other air support aircraft into the battle, eventually breaking the back of the insurgents and allowing the Rangers to be safely extracted from the battlefield.
For their bravery and airmanship, both Nygard and Cruz were credited with saving the lives of 88 Army Rangers and as a result awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Tragically, Ranger Sergeants Joshua P. Rodgers and Cameron H. Thomas gave their last full measure of devotion to their teammates and country and we honor their memory and service.
In this painting we see "Gru" making a wide turn off the wing of "Slap" who has just dropped ordinance in the distance. Below, at the base of the mountain, we can see a bit of the intense combat engulfing the Rangers.