CSM Thomas Payne – First Living Delta Force Member to Receive the Medal Of Honor
(Command Sergeat Major) CSM Thomas Patrick Payne will receive the Medal of Honor on September 11, 2020 for a raid in Iraq in 2015 that rescued 70 hostages of ISIS.
We wrote about the raid at Huwija (al-Hawija) in 2015.
Sgt. Maj. Thomas Payne was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for the 2015 Iraq raid, which freed 70 hostages held by ISIS. It's now being upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Here's helmet cam footage of the raid. https://t.co/BFUwU2fA5l pic.twitter.com/hU07Jbgkgv
— James LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) September 2, 2020
CSM Thomas Payne was initially given the Nation’s second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. Upon review it has been upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He becomes the first living Delta Force member and the 3rd Delta Force member in history to receive the MOH. The first two we wrote about previously, heroes of Black Hawk Down Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart.
In Iraq in 2015, US intelligence stated that there were at least 70 prisoners of ISIS slated for execution. The Delta Force operatives were to be a backup to the Kurdish Peshmerga, who were to rescue the men. But as often happens in a war situation, that plan “went south” immediately.
The Delta men were there to back the Kurdish assault on the objective; they had no immediate intent to spearhead the action. When operations went south fast for the Kurds, the Delta men proactively advanced. They quickly went over the wall obstacle, which the Kurds had failed to explosively breach, and gained access to the first of the two buildings identified as holding prisoner cells. They cleared the building and cut the locks freeing an estimated 40 prisoners.
Immediately, there came distress calls from the Kurdish force at the second building. The Kurds were under heavy gunfire from ISIS opposition. The Delta men maneuvered to the heavily fortified second building and scaled a ladder to its roof, all the while under a heavy volume of ISIS machine gun fire from below. They then began to eliminate the ISIS gunners below. It was during the maneuver between the two buildings that Joshua Wheeler was fatally shot by ISIS gunners.
Even with the second prisoner retention building on fire, CSM Payne breached the exterior door and repeatedly entered the building with bolt cutters freeing another estimated 30 prisoners. Aerial photos of the target area revealed freshly-dug pits nearby. It was suspected that they would serve as graves for the bodies of the soon-to-be executed 70 prisoners.
Payne’s team member, Joshua Wheeler, posthumously received the Silver Star for his actions that day.
CSM Payne has deployed 17 times – for Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn and Operation Inherent Resolve, and to the U.S. Africa Command. He has been the recipient of numerous valor awards in addition to the Distinguished Service Cross: Bronze Star Medal with combat “V” device; the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Bronze “V” device; and the Army Commendation Medal with Bronze “V” device with one Silver Oak Leaf Cluster. He enlisted in the Army infantry in 2002, and served as a sniper and sniper team leader in the 75th Ranger Battalion until 2007.(Military.com)
“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 and what’s important to me is my teammates’ legacies will live on with this Medal of Honor.” CSM Thomas Patrick Payne
Featured photo: screenshot via Military.com of US Army video