Seconds after U.S. military helicopters landed on their objective, Army commandos knew their mission to rescue 70 Islamic State-held hostages was off to a chaotic start.
“Ramp drops; it’s complete brown-out, part of the compound was already in a pretty intense firefight,” Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne recalled in a video interview released by the Army this month.
Then-Sgt. 1st Class Payne was the assistant team leader of a group of operators attached to 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, which joined Kurdish commandos on a Oct. 22, 2015, nighttime raid to liberate Iraqi hostages from the ISIS prison compound in the northern town of Hawija.
Fierce close-quarters fighting during the raid claimed the life of Payne’s teammate, Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, before the hostages were freed. For his actions that day, Payne will become the first living Delta Force member to receive the Medal of Honor, multiple sources confirmed to Military.com. Army officials have identified Payne as a Ranger, but they have not publicly confirmed his affiliation with the elite and highly secretive Delta Force.