Army Ranger Awarded Medal of Honor for Hostage Rescue

 In Americas, Land, U.S. Army, USA, Forces & Capabilities, Iraq

U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne received the Medal of Honor at a White House cer­e­mo­ny Friday for help­ing lib­er­ate over 70 hostages from an ISIS prison com­pound in Iraq five years ago.

President Donald Trump draped the nation’s high­est mil­i­tary award around Payne’s neck during a cer­e­mo­ny on the anniver­sary of the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist attacks — a day that com­pelled Payne to enlist.

“The Medal of Honor rep­re­sents every­thing great about our coun­try, and for me I don’t con­sid­er myself a recip­i­ent of this medal, I con­sid­er myself a guardian of this medal. What’s impor­tant for me is that my team­mates’ lega­cies will live on with this Medal of Honor,” said Medal of Honor Recipient Sgt. Maj. Thomas Payne.



According to media reports, Payne was assigned to the Army’s elite and secre­tive Delta Force unit during the daring mis­sion. The Army doesn’t pub­licly dis­close the mem­bers of the unit, for­mal­ly known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD‑D).

If this is the case, Payne is the first living sol­dier to receive the Medal of Honor for actions car­ried out while as a member of Delta Force. Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart received the award posthu­mous­ly for their actions during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, pop­u­lar­ly known as the “Black Hawk Down” inci­dent.

This is also the first Medal of Honor being award­ed for actions under­tak­en in sup­port of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Hostage rescue mis­sion:

Sgt. Maj. Payne was part of a joint task force that assist­ed Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces Oct. 22, 2015, in raid­ing an ISIS prison near Hawija in north­ern Iraq after a request by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Soldiers had to quick­ly rescue the hostages amid heavy enemy gun­fire and sui­cide-vest det­o­na­tions during the con­test­ed night­time oper­a­tion. After being infilled by CH-47 Chinook heli­copters, Payne and mem­bers of the task force climbed over a wall into the prison com­pound. Payne, an assis­tant team leader at the time, helped lead his team as it cleared one of the two build­ings known to house hostages, many of whom were cap­tured Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces per­son­nel.

Once inside the build­ing after light resis­tance from the enemy, Payne’s team used bolt cut­ters to pierce through the locks of a prison door, free­ing nearly 40 hostages. Payne and others then heard an urgent call for help over the radio from other task force mem­bers engaged in an intense fire­fight at the second build­ing.

Payne and his team maneu­vered about 30 yards to the heav­i­ly-for­ti­fied build­ing, which was par­tial­ly on fire. Once there, he and others scaled a ladder onto the roof of the one-story build­ing as a sus­tained rate of enemy machine-gun fire shot out from below. From a van­tage point on the roof, they engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire.

At that point, enemy fight­ers began to det­o­nate their sui­cide vests, caus­ing the roof to shake. Payne and others then moved off the roof to an ini­tial breach point on the ground level.

With bar­ri­cad­ed ene­mies firing rounds toward him, Payne entered the struc­ture to open anoth­er for­ti­fied door. After he man­aged to cut the first lock, he had to run out due to the heavy smoke and handed off the bolt cut­ters to an Iraqi part­ner. After the part­ner came out for fresh air, Payne took the tool again to sheer off the last lock and kicked open the door.

Still being engaged by the enemy, Payne and others escort­ed about 30 more hostages out of the burn­ing build­ing. With dis­re­gard for his own safety, Payne then reen­tered the build­ing two more times to ensure every hostage was out. One of those times he had to forcibly remove one of the hostages who had been too fright­ened to move during the chaot­ic scene.

Payne and his team­mates lib­er­at­ed 70 hostages in the daring mis­sion. The mis­sion left one U.S. Soldier, Master Sgt. Josh Wheeler, and at least 20 insur­gents dead.

For his actions that day, Payne was ini­tial­ly award­ed the Army’s second-high­est award, the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgrad­ed to a Medal of Honor.

In addi­tion to the cer­e­mo­ny at the White House, DOD and Army senior lead­ers will rec­og­nize Payne during a Hall of Heroes induc­tion cer­e­mo­ny, at the Pentagon which will be announced at a later date.

About Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne:

Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, now an instruc­tor assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), grew up in Batesburg-Leesville and Lugoff, South Carolina, and grad­u­at­ed from high school in 2002. Part of the 911 gen­er­a­tion, Payne felt a strong sense of duty to serve his coun­try. After high school, he enlist­ed in the Army as an Infantryman 11B and com­plet­ed the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2002 and the Ranger Indoctrination Program (now known as the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program) in early 2003.

He was then assigned as a rifle­man to A Co., 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, where he also served as a sniper and sniper team leader until November 2007, the year he was select­ed for assign­ment to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Since then, he has served within USASOC as a spe­cial oper­a­tions team member, assis­tant team sergeant, team sergeant and instruc­tor.

In 2012, Payne and his team­mate won the Best Ranger Competition – a gru­el­ing con­test that places extreme demands on buddy teams’ phys­i­cal, mental, tech­ni­cal and tac­ti­cal skills as Rangers – at Fort Benning.

Throughout his career, Payne deployed 17 times in sup­port of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn and Operation Inherent Resolve, and to the U.S. Africa Command area of respon­si­bil­i­ty.

Payne is a grad­u­ate of numer­ous mil­i­tary schools and cours­es, includ­ing Basic Airborne Course; Ranger Indoctrination Program; Ranger School; Sniper Course; Basic Leader Course; Basic Demolition Course; Advanced Demolition Course; Advanced Land Navigation; Survive, Evasion, Resistance and Escape; Free Fall Parachutist; Advanced Leader Course; Jumpmaster Course; Free Fall Jumpmaster Course; Joint Military Tandem Master Course; Senior Leader Course; Defense Language Institute (French); Special Forces Sniper Course; and Joint Special Operations Senior Enlisted Academy.

Payne’s awards and dec­o­ra­tions include the Medal of Honor; Bronze Star Medal with Bronze “V” device and three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; the Purple Heart; Defense Meritorious Service Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; Meritorious Service Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster; Joint Service Commendation Medal with Bronze “V” device; Army Commendation Medal with Bronze “V” device and one Silver Oak Leaf Cluster; Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation; Joint Meritorious Unit Award; Valorous Unit Award; Meritorious Unit Commendation; Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and five Loops; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars; Iraq Campaign Medal with five Bronze Stars; Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral “3”; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Ranger Tab; Combat Infantryman Badge; Expert Infantryman Badge; Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge and Parachutist Badge.

Payne grad­u­at­ed from Norwich University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree in strate­gic stud­ies and defense analy­sis. He is sta­tioned at Fort Bragg, where he lives with his wife and three chil­dren.

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