Who is Sgt Major Thomas 'Patrick' Payne? Real story behind Medal of Honor recipient who freed 70 ISIS hostages
Sgt Maj Thomas Patrick Payne led a team and risked his life to rescue hostages in Iraq and here's all you need to know about him and the special operation
On September 11, President Donald Trump bestowed the highest military decoration — Medal of Honor — upon Thomas 'Patrick' Payne in a White House ceremony. Payne is the first living Delta Force member in history to receive the highest military decoration.
Payne, 36, was honored for his part in the October 22, 2015, mission where his team rescued 70 Iraqi hostages from ISIS. On the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Payne was presented with the prestigious medal. In case you are wondering who exactly is Payne, we got you covered. Sgt Major Thomas 'Patrick' Payne joined the army in 2002 as an infantryman and quickly made his way to the top into the Rangers.
Payne has been deployed 17 times to combat zones while serving as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and in various positions with the US Army Special Operations Command. He was initially awarded the Army's second-highest award — the Distinguished Services Cross — which was upgraded to Medal of Honor. He was honored for his part in the October 22, 2015, mission where he and his troop risked their lives trying to rescue hostages who were set to be executed by Islamic State militants in Iraq.
Before honoring Payne with the medal, Trump praised Payne and his impressive accomplishments, calling him "one of the bravest men anywhere in the world". "'Today he joins the immortal company of our most revered American heroes. Pat, you personify the motto: 'Rangers lead the way'," added Trump. Payne was accompanied by his wife Alison and their son at the ceremony. Ashley Wheeler, the wife of Payne's teammate Master Sgt Joseph Wheeler, who died in the mission, was also present at the ceremony.
On the night of October 22, 2015, Payne was assigned to lead a team for clearing one of the two buildings where hostages were known to be held, in a night time operation in the Northern Iraq province of Kirkuk. The raid became risky and complicated when the Kurdish forces who were helping the US troops tried to blast a hole in the building's compound wall. Unfortunately, the compound wall didn't break but managed to alert the ISIS militants, who began firing at the Kurdish forces.
Payne, who was a sergeant first class at the time of the mission, climbed over the wall to enter the compound, along with his unit. The soldiers quickly began clearing one of the buildings. They used bolt cutters to break the locks off the prison doors and freed 38 hostages. Shortly after clearing the first building, the troop received a radio call from the other task force members in the next building, who were engaged in an intense gunfight. Payne and Wheeler quickly rushed to the second building, which was partially on fire. Wheeler was unfortunately shot dead. He became the first American killed in action since the US launched a military intervention in Iraq against the Islamic State in 2014. The team climbed up the ladder and reached the first storey of the building and cut open the locks and freed the hostages. Payne re-entered the burning building twice to ensure that all the hostages were rescued. A total of 70 hostages were saved and 20 ISIS fighters were also killed in the operation.