WASHINGTON (WNCN) – A Fort Bragg soldier is slated to receive the Medal of Honor on Friday due to his actions during a hostage rescue mission in Iraq in 2015.
President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne on the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – which was also the day Payne decided to enlist.
Payne, a career Army Ranger and Delta Force operative stationed at Fort Bragg, was part of a team that was tasked with clearing buildings surrounding an ISIS prison near Hawija in northern Iraq in an effort to save 70 hostages from imminent execution.
The raid was given the green light after intelligence spotted freshly dug graves near the prison.
On Oct. 22, 2015, Payne and his team rode CH-47 helicopters to the mission and used ladders to scale walls around the prison.
Payne, a South Carolina native, said they became involved in an “intense firefight right off the bat.”
After entering the first building, they were met with some resistance but were able to cut locks on steel doors to find three dozen hostages.
Payne’s team then responded to calls for help from the second building.
ISIS fighters detonated suicide vests inside the already burning building as Payne’s team attempted to gain entry through the roof. But ISIS gunfire forced the team down.
When attempts to breach the reinforced windows failed, Payne saw doors on the building were the same as the first.
He used bolt cutters to cut locks while under fire from ISIS fighters in a burning building.
A Kurdish fighter attempted to cut a second lock but smoke inhalation forced him to pull out. Payne then again exposed himself to gunfire to cut the lock.
At that time, the building started to collapse but 30 hostages were able to escape.
Payne went back in two more times help free all the prisoners and even had to remove one of the hostages who was over come by fear and couldn’t move.
Payne and the other rescuers protected the freed prisoners as they made their way to the helicopters.
Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, became the first American service member killed by ISIS when he was shot during the raid.
Payne will become the first living Delta Force member to receive the Medal of Honor.
Two other Delta Force members have received the medal – Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart, who were killed during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
Payne currently lives on Fort Bragg with his wife and three children.
He has 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.