WATCH: SC native Army Ranger receives Medal of Honor for role in 2015 ISIS hostage rescue

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina native Sergeant Major Thomas ‘Patrick’ Payne was awarded the Medal of Honor on Friday, September 11 for his role in the October 2015 rescue of 75 hostages of the Islamic State.


As part of Operation Inherent Resolve, Payne and his team, along with Kurdish forces, were tasked with clearing two buildings “known to house hostages” in Kirkuk Province, Iraq, according to a statement released by the White House.

The situation was urgent, as the team “received intelligence that freshly dug graves had been spotted and the hostages would likely be executed soon,” according to a description of events provided by the Army.

Payne’s team quickly liberated the first building, rescuing 38 hostages. Then, Payne heard team members call for additional support in clearing the second building; he and his team immediately responded.

As the enemy detonated and discharged a barrage of munitions, Payne’s team pressed on, scaling a burning roof to finally breach the second building.

Amid the flames, Payne and his team worked through heavy smoke to cut the locks on the door imprisoning the hostages.

37 additional hostages were freed, with Payne “[facilitating] the evacuation of the hostages despite being ordered to evacuate the collapsing building himself, which was…structurally unsound due to the fire,” according to the White House statement.

A press release obtained by the Associated Press indicates that “Payne reentered the building two more times to ensure every hostage was freed. One of those times he had to forcibly remove one of the hostages who had been too frightened to move during the chaotic scene.”

The White House statement noted that Payne “consciously exposed himself to enemy automatic gunfire each time he entered the building.” For selfless and brave actions like this, Payne will be awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.


Payne is a native of Batesburg-Leesville and Lugoff, near Fort Jackson.

Service is in his blood. His father, Drayton Shealy, is a pilot and police officer with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. His grandfather, brothers, and cousins all served in the military. Payne’s wife, Alison, is a nurse; during the COVID-19 outbreak, she traveled to St. Joseph’s Hospital in New York to help care for patients.

Payne enlisted in 2002, and quickly rose in ranks, eventually being assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C, where he currently resides with his wife and three children.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command “mans, trains, equips, educates, organizes, sustains, and supports forces to conduct special operations across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of joint force commanders and interagency partners, to meet theater and national objectives.”

Payne has deployed 17 times over the last 18 years, as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Inherent Resolve, as well as to the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility, according to a biography provided by the Army.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Payne’s numerous accolades include:

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

Staff Sgt. Jerrod Sullivan, U.S. Army Special Operations Command

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