The Pentagon has identified the US Army soldier who died in the rescue mission in Northern Iraq earlier this week. He is Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, of Roland in Oklahoma. Joshua, who was 39 years of age, was a part of the mission to rescue 70 hostages who were facing imminent mass execution in a prison controlled by the ISIS.
Earlier, Joshua L. Wheeler was assigned to Headquarters of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Pentagon released a statement saying that this Army Delta Force soldier is the first American to die in combat in Iraq since November 2011. The hostages he was helping to rescue included more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, local residents and several ISIS fighters accused of spying. They were liberated Thursday after a helicopter assault of US special operations troops as well as Kurdish and Iraqi forces.
US intelligence had earlier spotted mass graves inside the compound in surveillance. “There was not a lot of time”, said one US official. “The threat of execution was imminent”, he added on condition of anonymity.
So a US Special Forces commander on the ground made the decision to directly engage ISIS fighters in an overnight mission. Thirty troops from Delta Force participated in the raid on an “advise and assist role”. However, the Kurdish Cobra commandos were overwhelmed after entering the walled compound on their own.
Wheeler was shot inside the compound and badly injured. He was flown to Irbil, where he eventually died. Four Peshmerga soldiers were also wounded in the attack. The Kurdistan regional government issued a statement saying that more than 20 ISIS fighters were killed and six were captured.
Later after the rescue, the hostages revealed that ISIS had informed them that they would be executed after morning prayers.
Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of the US Central Command said that the mission was “complex and highly successful”.