b. 02/02/1984 Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 22/10/2015 Kirkuk Province, Iraq.
Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne, an instructor assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, grew up in Batesburg-Leesville and Lugoff, South Carolina, and graduated from high school in 2002. Part of the 9/11 generation, Payne felt a strong sense of duty to serve his country. After high school, he enlisted in the Army as an Infantryman 11B and completed the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2002 and the Ranger Indoctrination Program (now known as the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program) in early 2003.
He was then assigned as a rifleman to A Co., 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, where he also served as a sniper and sniper team leader until November 2007, the year he was selected for assignment to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Since then, he has served within USASOC as a special operations team member, assistant team sergeant, team sergeant and instructor.
Throughout his career, Payne 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.
Payne’s awards and decorations include the Medal of Honor; Bronze Star Medal with Bronze “V” device and three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; the Purple Heart; Defense Meritorious Service Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters; Meritorious Service Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster; Joint Service Commendation Medal with Bronze “V” device; Army Commendation Medal with Bronze “V” device and one Silver Oak Leaf Cluster; Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation; Joint Meritorious Unit Award; Valorous Unit Award; Meritorious Unit Commendation; Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and five Loops; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars; Iraq Campaign Medal with five Bronze Stars; Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral “3”; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Ranger Tab; Combat Infantryman Badge; Expert Infantryman Badge; Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge and Parachutist Badge.
Payne graduated from Norwich University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree in strategic studies and defense analysis. He is stationed at Fort Bragg, where he lives with his wife and three children.
On October 22, 2015, during a daring nighttime hostage rescue in Kirkuk Province, Iraq, in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, then-Sergeant First Class Payne led a combined assault team charged with clearing one of two buildings known to house hostages.
With speed, audacity, and courage, he first led his team as they quickly cleared the assigned building, liberating 38 hostages. Then, upon hearing a request for additional assault team members to assist with clearing the other building, Sergeant Payne, on his own initiative, left his secured position. He exposed himself to enemy fire as he bounded across the compound to the other building from which enemy forces were engaging his comrades.
Sergeant Payne climbed a ladder to the building’s roof, which was now partially engulfed in flames, and engaged the enemy fighters below with grenades and small arms fire. He then moved to ground level, engaging enemy forces through a breach hole in the west side of the building.
Knowing time was running out for the hostages trapped inside the burning building, Sergeant Payne moved to the building’s main entrance, from which heavy enemy fire had thwarted previous attempts to enter.
Sergeant Payne knowingly risked his own life by bravely entering the building under intense enemy fire, enduring smoke, heat, and flames to identify the armored door imprisoning the hostages. Upon exiting, Sergeant Payne exchanged his rifle for bolt cutters and again entered the building, ignoring the enemy rounds impacting the walls around him as he cut the locks on a complex locking mechanism. His courageous actions motivated the coalition assault team members to enter the breach and assist with cutting the locks.
After exiting to catch his breath, he reentered the building to make the final lock cuts, freeing 37 hostages. Sergeant Payne then facilitated the evacuation of the hostages despite being ordered to evacuate the collapsing building himself, which was now structurally unsound due to the fire.
Sergeant Payne then reentered the burning building one last time to ensure everyone had been evacuated. He consciously exposed himself to enemy automatic gunfire each time he entered the building.
Sergeant Payne’s extraordinary heroism and selfless actions were key to liberating 75 hostages during a contested rescue mission that resulted in 20 enemy fighters killed in action.
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