Sgt. Maj. Thomas "Patrick" Payne is a hero of the United States Army. He played a critical role in one of the largest hostage rescues of all time.
Payne grew up surrounded by people who served in the military. When he finally joined the army, his goal was to become an Army Ranger. He accomplished this quickly, rising through the ranks as a dedicated special operator.
In 2007, he joined the Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina as a 75th Ranger Regiment sniper.
Sgt. Maj. Thomas "Patrick" Payne's Incredible Service Record
Sgt. Maj. Thomas "Patrick" Payne has earned an incredible service record, receiving over 20 medals for his valor. The most distinguished of these were the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star with a V device (for valor), and the Medal of Honor.
Payne received the Purple Heart in 2010 when a grenade blast injured him in Afghanistan. The injuries were severe enough to warrant months of recovery and rehabilitation.
However, Payne was no quitter. He came back better and stronger than before, ready to continue his service as a dedicated operator.
Not long after his recovery, Payne and his teammate Master Sergeant Kevin Foutz won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition. This unstoppable duo pushed through 60 hours of continuous events designed to stretch their physical and mental abilities without even considering giving up.
The Infamous Hostage Rescue
In October 2015 Payne was a part of the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq. The task force faced a critical mission to rescue dozens of Iraqi hostages held in an ISIS prison. The hostages were mostly Iraqi security forces and ISIS was planning to execute them all.
Payne and his team, along with a group of Kurdish Special Forces, boarded their CH-47 Chinook helicopters and set out for the prison. The goal was to fly to the prison, mount an assault, and save the prisoners.
Payne's team executed a swift operation, dropping into the prison and rapidly freeing about 40 hostages. However, the situation escalated as Kurdish forces, engaged in the same operation, found themselves under intense fire, pinned down by ISIS defenders.
Payne and a few other soldiers didn't hesitate to help the Kurdish forces, rushing through withering gunfire to reach them. He climbed a ladder to gain a height advantage in the firefight, despite enemy shooters trying to pick him off.
Payne reached the roof and began throwing grenades at the enemy below who had begun to set off their suicide vests. Blasts shook the building, but Payne refused to give up.
He would not leave the Kurdish forces and the remaining hostages behind.
"…Once you’re able to control your fear, that’s the bridge to personal courage and personal courage is contagious on the battlefield."Sgt. Major Thomas P. Payne
Sgt. Maj. Thomas "Patrick" Payne Braves it all
Despite smoke, fire, and devastating gunfire, Payne and a Kurdish commando braved it all to get to the door between the hostages and freedom. They breached the door and managed to rescue about 30 more hostages before the building collapsed.
Having rescued all the hostages within their reach, the U.S. and Kurdish special operators joined forces, forming a human wall to shield the rescued individuals from harm. The commandos moved efficiently and took out all resistance with deadly precision.
Ultimately, the operation concluded with around 75 hostages being rapidly led to the on-standby Chinook helicopters, ensuring their safe and successful return to the base.
If it hadn't been for the incredible heroism of Sgt. Major Thomas P. Payne, none of them likely would have made it out alive. Moreover, without this intervention, the Kurdish commandos would have likely faced certain decimation.
On September 11, 2020, President Trump awarded Payne the Medal of Honor for his bravery and courage that day.
He continues to live in Fort Bragg and serves the United States Army as a special operations instructor.
Source: US Dept. Of Defense