DELRAY BEACH, FL (AP) — An American soldier who helped rescue about 70 hostages set to be executed by Islamic State militants in Iraq has been approved to receive the Medal of Honor for actions during a daring 2015 raid, The Associated Press has learned.
Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, a Ranger assigned to the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command, will receive the U.S. military’s highest honor for valor in combat in a White House ceremony set to be held on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The medal approval was confirmed by two Defense Department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record.
The medal will honor Payne’s actions in a daring predawn raid on Oct. 22, 2015. Seeking to rescue 70 Islamic State hostages, American and Kurdish commandos flew in CH-47 Chinook helicopters to the town of Huwija, located roughly 15 kilometers (9 miles) west of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.
The Kurdish Regional Government, the autonomous body that governs the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, had received a tip that the 70 prisoners, including peshmerga fighters, as the Kurdish forces are known, would soon be massacred by Islamic State militants. Aerial photos of the compound showed what intelligence officials believed to be freshly dug mass graves where their bodies would be dumped.
The plan called for members of the American unit to support the Kurdish commandos in their operation but not join in on the main effort to rescue the prisoners.
“Time was of the essence,” Payne said, according to a news release obtained by the AP and not yet made public. “There were freshly dug graves. If we didn’t action this raid, then the hostages were likely to be executed.”
The raid began with a failure. Kurdish forces attempted to make a dynamic entry by blasting a hole in the compound’s outer wall, but the blast failed. The explosion alerted the ISIS militants, who opened fire on the Kurdish forces.
Payne and his unit climbed over a wall and entered the prison compound. The soldiers quickly cleared one of the two buildings known to house hostages. Once inside the building, the unit encountered enemy resistance. The team used bolt cutters to break the locks off the prison doors, freeing nearly 40 hostages.
Moments later, an urgent call over the radio was received from other task force members engaged in an intense gun fight at the second building.
I think that's all I can share via copy and paste. The reporter here, Jim Laporta, is a Marine veteran and is meticulous in his research. You gotta click that AP link and continue reading the story. Obviously, this is one we will dive into on Zero Blog 30. One last note from the AP.
Payne joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman and quickly made his way into the Rangers. He has deployed several times to combat zones as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and in various positions with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
He is a Purple Heart recipient from a wound he sustained in a separate 2010 mission in Afghanistan. And as a sergeant first class in 2012, Payne won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition, representing USASOC.
Payne is married with three children and is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Im thrilled for the Sergeant Major's kids. Imagine your pop is still in the Army after all these years. You know he's done some wild stuff and was gone a lot but he's a ranger and that's part of the gig. All of a sudden, your dad gets a phone call that will forever change the course of your family's life. Your country wants to honor your dad in the highest way possible because he ACTUALLY made a difference in these wars.
Talkin to other veterans, lots of us struggle with the fact that many aspects of these wars have seemed pointless. Fallujah fell three times after it was secured in the battles house to house. American men and women, and innocents all over Afghanistan, are dying still. This man and his team can rest their heads at night and know that people are alive because they put aside fear and moved calmly and swiftly under intense fire to rescue those who needed it. That's why, in the purest of terms, many raised their right hand and made a pledge. It's for that moment. Helping those who need it while being strapped with full combat battle rattle and ready to wage war on those who do wrong.
Congratulations to Sgt Major Payne are certainly in order but we must also recognize that the greatest honor our country can give also comes with an incredible mental toll. You do not wear that medal without memories that haunt for decades. That fact has been a common theme amongst all the Medal of Honor recipients I've interviewed.
Sleep peacefully. Rough men and women are still on the wall-- ready and willing to do violence in the blink of an eye.
PS: obviously it's an all-time name.