receive soldier

Soldier to receive Medal of Honor after helping save 70 captives from execution by Islamic State – The Washington Post

The team of elite U.S. Army soldiers had already freed dozens of captives at the Islamic State compound when an urgent plea crackled over the radio: Another team nearby on the roof of a burning building was taking enemy fire from multiple sides.

First Sgt. Thomas P. Payne peered through his night-vision goggles in the predawn hours of Oct. 22, 2015, midway through a daring prisoner rescue in northern Iraq. A fellow soldier had already been shot. “Let’s get into the fight,” he told another soldier before climbing a ladder to reach the rooftop, then dropping grenades and firing down through holes to the floor below.

Then came the earsplitting staccato of detonating suicide vests, shaking the building’s foundation.

The next step, Payne and the team understood, was to enter the building, where dozens more prisoners were still trapped.

Payne, now a sergeant major, received the highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, from President Trump in a White House ceremony Friday for his role in the rescue operation to free about 70 captives, in which he led many out and went back in for one last man.

The award makes Payne, 36, the first recipient of the award in the fight against the Islamic State and the first living Delta Force recipient since the counterterrorism unit’s creation in the late 1970s.

President Trump awarded the medal to Payne amid Sept. 11 commemorations. Payne enlisted months after the terrorist attacks and has served on 17 deployments, including to Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa — nearly one tour a year in elite units that have absorbed bloody costs of those fights.

The Army has said the mission was one of the largest hostage rescue operations in history. It was partially captured on the helmet camera of a Kurdish soldier, which shows Payne in a doorway leading a stream of captives out before going back to look for other survivors.

“I don’t consider myself a recipient,” Payne told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday ahead of the ceremony, describing custody of the award. “I consider myself a guardian.”

In 2015, when Islamic State militants controlled large swaths of Iraq and Syria, intelligence suggested freshly dug graves outside the compound were preparations for a mass execution of mostly Iraqi soldiers and police in the northern town of Hawijah.

The U.S. soldiers on the mission were part of the Army’s secretive unit commonly known as Delta Force, The Washington Post previously reported, alongside elite Kurdish peshmerga soldiers. The Army doesn’t publicly disclose the members of the unit, formally known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, but a defense official confirmed that Payne served in the unit when the mission occurred.

The combined team took immediate fire after unloading from a Chinook helicopter, Payne recounted in a video, and his team carried ladders to climb over the compound wall. Soon after, Delta operator Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was shot rushing toward the enemy, and a medic with Payne moved up to care for his wounds.

Payne’s team met some resistance in the first building before finding the padlocked door of a large prison cell. The team snapped the locks with bolt cutters and opened the door to see more than 30 prisoners illuminated by their flashlights.

The call for help blared over the radio from the other team on top of the building in flames. Payne and his team climbed up to the top and fired through holes at Islamic State fighters, some of whom screamed at him before detonating suicide vests, Payne said. The team climbed back down, snapping the locks off another door while taking fire from barricaded fighters.

After killing the fighters, the team found another cell with dozens more captives. Then came a warning over the radio. The building was beginning to collapse, and a mandatory evacuation order was given.

The next moments were captured on the helmet camera of a Kurdish soldier, who fired into a window as the fire raged. Coalition soldiers emerged out of the doorway followed by several hostages running toward the waiting helicopters. But the stream of men abruptly stopped, blocked by a disoriented captive in the hall.

Payne burst through the doorway and waved the rest of the captives through “like a third base coach,” he said, with at least 30 men sprinting to safety, including some with blood on their clothing. Payne reentered the building to grab one final prisoner.

There were so many now-freed captives on the helicopters that the team had to stand during the flight back to Irbil, Payne said.

About 70 captives were freed, and 20 enemy fighters were killed, the Army said. Wheeler died of his injuries, becoming the first service member to be killed in combat in Iraq after the 2011 troop pullout.

Payne’s numerous deployments include a tour in Afghanistan in 2010, when a grenade shattered his knee, earning a Purple Heart. He grew up in small South Carolina towns on either side of Columbia.

Two other Delta Force soldiers have received the Medal of Honor, although their awards were given posthumously.

Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart asked to be inserted at the site of a helicopter crash in Mogadishu in October 1993 to recover wounded soldiers in the “Black Hawk Down” battle.

Both were killed defending pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Durant. Their actions were credited by the Army for Durant’s survival when he was captured alive and later released.

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soldier third

Third Fort Hood soldier found dead near Texas Army base within past month – Fox News

Another soldier has been found dead near Fort Hood, the third body of a soldier to be discovered near the U.S. Army base in Texas within the past month.

Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, was found unresponsive July 17 in the vicinity of Stillhouse Hollow Lake, Fort Hood officials said on Tuesday. Stillhouse Hollow Lake is a reservoir located in Bell County and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Fort Worth District.

Officials have not said whether the death is considered suspicious. The Bell County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident.


“The Black Knight family is truly heartbroken by the tragic loss of Private Mejhor Morta,” said Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, commander of 1st Brigade 5th Cavalry. Regiment. “I would like to send my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and loved ones.”

Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, who was stationed at Fort Hood, was found unresponsive July 17 in the vicinity of Stillhouse Lake. (Fort Hood Press Center) 

Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, who was stationed at Fort Hood, was found unresponsive July 17 in the vicinity of Stillhouse Lake. (Fort Hood Press Center) 

Morta, of Pensacola, Fla., entered the Army in September 2019 as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic. Since May 2020, he had been assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, according to a statement released by the Fort Hood Press Center. His awards and decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

On June 19, officials discovered skeletal remains in a field in Killeen, just over 10 miles from Stillhouse Hollow Lake, which were identified two days later as the remains of 24-year-old Fort Hood soldier Gregory Wedel-Morales.

U.S. Army officials have said they suspect foul play in the death of Wedel-Morales, who had been missing since last August. Even though Wedel-Morales was scheduled to be discharged from the Army within days of his disappearance, his unit had declared him AWOL and then a deserter.


Wedel-Morales’ was reinstated to active duty after the Killeen Police Department, which serves the town adjacent to Fort Hood, found new evidence suggesting he died before he was “dropped from rolls.” That meant he could be buried with military honors in his home state of Oklahoma.

A $25,000 reward is being offered for information about his case.

On June 30, U.S. Army officials found more human remains, which were later identified as 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, near the Leon River in Bell County, about 20 miles east of Fort Hood. She had been missing since April.

There is no indication that the deaths of Morales and Guillen are connected, but both their families argue Fort Hood officials did not investigate the disappearances with enough empathy or urgency.


Members of Congress joined advocates for women Tuesday to continue the call for changes in the way the military handles sexual abuse and harassment following the death of Guillen, whom investigators believe was bludgeoned to death and dismembered by a fellow soldier stationed at the same base.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Kansas soldier

Kansas soldier saves ‘countless lives’ by driving truck into active shooter: reports – Fox News

An active duty soldier in Kansas was credited with saving “countless lives” this week when he drove his truck into an active shooter on a bridge.

Master Sgt. David Royer was on a phone call with his fiancee Wednesday morning while stuck in traffic on the Centennial Bridge near Forth Leavenworth when he saw a man ahead of him pull a rifle out of his vehicle and start shooting, FOX 4 of Kansas City reported.

The incident was initially reported as road rage but as police interviewed witnesses they realized what had really happened, the station reported.

“There was an active-duty soldier assigned to Ft. Leavenworth waiting in traffic behind the event, saw the event unfold, determined it was an active shooter and intervened by striking the shooter with his vehicle, causing him to be critically injured, ending the encounter with the active shooter and likely saving countless lives,” Leavenworth Police Chief Patrick Kitchens told FOX 4.


Kitchens said the shooter, 37, had multiple weapons and was firing indiscriminately from the bridge.

Both the shooter and a victim he shot, another Forth Leavenworth soldier, were taken to a hospital with serious injuries.

Royer said he did the only thing he could think of to stop the shooting.

“I feel as if most people in my situation would have done the same thing,” he said, according to The Leavenworth Times.

Centennial Bridge

Centennial Bridge
(Google Maps)

The soldier’s fiancee, Haley Siela, could tell something was wrong during their conversation, she told FOX 4.

“I heard eight or nine gunshots,” Siela said. “I was so scared, because I didn’t know how this was going to turn out.”


Royer said his 15 years in the Army likely prepared him for the incident. He has been trained in active shooter situations.

Kitchens, in a news conference, said although Royer won’t call himself a hero, “I will.”

“Let’s be absolutely crystal clear, his actions were heroic,” he said. “His actions were extraordinary and he should be commended for that.”

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soldier thwarts

Soldier thwarts potential mass shooting on Kansas bridge by ramming suspect with vehicle – NBC News

A soldier based at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leavenworth thwarted a potential mass shooting Wednesday by striking and injuring a suspect with his vehicle, authorities said.

The service member, identified only as a 34-year-old active-duty soldier based nearby, was behind the unidentified suspect in traffic on a bridge that connects Kansas and Missouri when the suspect got out of a vehicle and opened fire, Leavenworth police Chief Pat Kitchens said.

“We learned that this was an active shooter with multiple weapons on the bridge firing at cars,” Kitchens said.

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Law enforcement in Leavenworth, Kansas, responded to Centennial Bridge, which spans the Missouri River and connects Kansas and Missouri, based on reports of shots fired about 11 a.m., police said.

The suspect had a semiautomatic rifle and a handgun, he said. The soldier rammed the suspect with a vehicle.

“He intentionally intervened using his vehicle to strike and injure the suspect who was actively shooting,” Kitchens said. “Very likely countless lives were saved by the person that intervened and helped.”

The suspect was pinned under a vehicle when first responders arrived, according to the chief. Another active duty service member was struck by gunfire, but no other injuries were reported, Kitchens said.

Police don’t believe that service member was targeted for any particular reason, the chief said. Both the injured were hospitalized in serious but stable condition, he said.

At least two vehicles were hit by gunfire, but those inside were uninjured, the chief said. The suspect’s motives were unknown, but investigators were planning on combing through the person’s home and vehicles, he said.

Witness Austin Menzel told NBC affiliate KSHB of Kansas City, Missouri, that the soldier who intervened is a “hero.”

“I’m glad that somebody did something about it,” he said.

Image: Dennis RomeroDennis Romero

Dennis Romero writes for NBC News and is based in Los Angeles.

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Israeli soldier

Israeli soldier killed during raid in occupied West Bank – Al Jazeera English

A Palestinian rock-thrower killed an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday and police wounded a Palestinian who tried to stab security staff at a checkpoint, Israeli authorities have said.

The separate events marred a relative lull in West Bank violence during the coronavirus outbreak and came a day before planned US-Israel talks on plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.


Palestinians and Israelis have restricted their movements and, to a degree, cooperated on measures in response to the crisis.

On Thursday, however, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to swear in a new coalition government whose agenda includes a possible declaration of sovereignty over Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank – a de facto annexation.

The Israeli military said 21-year-old Amit Ben-Yigal died after being struck in the head by a rock thrown from a rooftop in Yabad village, near Jenin, as his special forces unit withdrew after detaining four wanted Palestinians.

Palestinian security sources said that clashes had erupted overnight when Israeli forces raided the village.

The Israeli military said troops were back in the village later on Tuesday, searching for the rock-thrower, and Netanyahu said on Twitter that Israel would “settle the score with him”.

Residents of Yabad clashed with the troops, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Separately, a Palestinian tried to stab Israeli security staff at Qalandiya checkpoint, around 50km (30 miles) to the south on the West Bank boundary and was shot, an Israeli police spokesman said, adding that no Israelis were wounded. The Palestinian was taken by ambulance to hospital in critical condition, an Israeli emergency service said.

An Israeli soldier wheels a stretcher at the scene of an incident at Qalandia checkpoint in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 12, 2src2src. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

A Palestinian man was in a critical condition after the incident at Qalandiya checkpoint [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Pompeo visit

The Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future state and deem Israeli settlements there illegal, as do most world powers. Israel and the United States dispute that view.

US-backed peacemaking between the two sides broke down in 2014.

Israel’s proposed territorial steps in the West Bank are expected to be discussed during a one-day visit on Wednesday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who will meet Netanyahu as well as the prime minister’s designated coalition partner, Benny Gantz.

“We [also] hope that we can convince the Palestinian leadership that they should engage with the Israelis on the basis of the [Trump] Vision for Peace,” Pompeo told the Israel Hayom newspaper in an interview.

President Donald Trump unveiled a new plan for Israel-Palestine in January, but his administration has been boycotted by the Palestinians, who see bias in moves such as his 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The plan, categorically rejected by the Palestinians, gives Israel the green light to annex Jewish settlements and strategic areas of the West Bank.


For much of the international community, such a move by Israel would amount to a grave violation of international law and crush hopes of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It could also further inflame regional tensions.

The initial Israeli raid on Yabad was launched to arrest Palestinians suspected of previously throwing rocks at Israeli cars and of other offences, the military spokesman said.

By midday, 16 Palestinians had been arrested in the Jenin area, Palestinian officials said.

A Palestinian woman cries as she is stopped by Israeli forces after an Israeli soldier was killed by a rock thrown during an arrest raid, in Yabad near Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 12,

The Israeli military said troops were back in the village later on Tuesday, searching for the alleged rock-thrower [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

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