2015 Superior Achievement Award

Presented to: Captain Nicholas Rayl

Citation: For performing above and beyond the call out of duty
navigating hostile airspace to engage a hostile AAA piece that represented a threat to aircraft.


As an AC-130W navigator, Capt Nicholas Rayl is responsible for navigating international airspace, coordinating aerial refueling, and running combat systems. During a 2014 deployment to meet the growing threat of ISIS, and protect the Yazidi people, a truck- mounted AAA piece began engaging his aircraft. While maneuvering into an orbit around the threat, Capt Rayl maintained visual contact with the mobile truck-mounted AAA with his sensor. He and the Combat System Officer (CSO) communicated the aircraft’s situation and position to the controlling Joint Terminal Attack Controller and provided vital information to the crew regarding the target’s disposition and atmospherics of the area. As the vehicle continued to fire at the aircraft, enemy forces launched illumination artillery and the AAA fire became accurate. Capt Rayl’s crew maneuvered to defend the aircraft, during which the crew was engaged by a second, larger caliber AAA system the aircraft’s missile warning system indicated a surface-to-air missile threat. While continuing to defend the aircraft from multiple threats, Capt Rayl and crew maneuvered the aircraft to engage the mobile truck-mounted AAA with a precision guided munition while the vehicle maneuvered through the city. Capt Rayl developed a weaponeering solution to destroy the mobile AAA while considering the strategic implications within an urban environment; Capt Rayl aborted two separate attempts to strike the moving target due to the risk to civilians and collateral damage. On the third attempt the pilot, in coordination with Capt Rayl and the CSO, maneuvered the aircraft onto compressed attack geometry to strike the AAA vehicle in an area which minimized collateral damage and engaged with an AGM-176 Griffin missile. Capt Rayl provided the munition’s laser terminalguidance, which resulted in a direct hit on the target and destroyed the vehicle and the AAA system.

Capt Rayl commissioned in the Air Force from the University of Colorado with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Capt Rayl is one of the few Air Force Captains qualified as both a Navigator and a Combat Systems Officer. He has held numerous positions and is currently a training officer, training nearly 1000 new navigators and combat systems officers annually.