Report: Ranger with local roots to receive Medal of Honor

Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, a native of Batesburg-Leesville, is set to receive the Medal of Honor next week for his valor in a 2015 raid to rescue 70 hostages held by the Islamic State, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Sgt. Maj. Payne, who now is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., is to be honored with the U.S. military’s highest honor during ceremonies at the White House next Friday, according to the AP’s published report. The event will coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Payne was a key figure in a dramatic raid in October 2015 on an ISIS compound near Kirkuk in Iraq in which U.S. and Kurdish forces staged an assault on two buildings by the terrorist organization. Under heavy fire, between 10 and 20 American troops rescued 40 hostages from one of the buildings, then freed the others from a second burning building.

According to published reports of the raid, Payne and fellow soldier Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler moved together toward the burning building, but Wheeler was cut down by gunfire. With his colleague killed, Payne continued with the rescue. He entered the burning building where the remaining hostages were held, and he and an Iraqi soldier cut locks from a fortified door inside the building, which was at risk of collapse.

Struggling to breathe against the effects of the fire, the brave Ranger reportedly moved in and out of the building three times to help rescue the hostages. Payne had to forcibly carry at least one frightened hostage from the structure, according to published report.

Sgt. Maj. Payne, who enlisted in 2002, is a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment Special Operations Command. He already holds a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained in a 2010 mission in Afghanistan; two years later, he won the Army’s 2012 Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga.

Payne is married with three children. From Lugoff, he spent most of his youth in Batesburg-Leesville as part of a blended family.

Sgt. Thomas “Patrick” Payne is pictured in this capture from U.S. Army video of the 2012 Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga.