The Pentagon announced Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler as the first U.S. service member to die in the ground fight against ISIS in Iraq. The U.S. Delta Force service member was killed during a raid in northern Iraq last Thursday according to Department of Defense.
Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Oklahoma, died in Kirkuk Province from wounds received by enemy small-arms fire during an operation. He was assigned Headquarters U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Wheeler was posthumously given a Purple Heart and is survived by a wife and four sons.
The fatality marks the first U.S. service member death from hostile fire in Iraq since a training mission began there in June 2014.
U.S. Delta Force Service Member Killed During ISIS Raid
First U.S. Casualty in ISIS Fight in Iraq During Rescue Operation
Pentagon officials say he died from enemy fire during the operation to free as many as 70 Arab hostages from an ISIS prison in northern Iraq. They say he was assigned to Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
More than 30 U.S. ground troops serving as advisers and five U.S. helicopters participated in what began as a mission to support dozens of Kurdish forces and ended up involving the U.S. forces in what one U.S. official described as “an intense firefight.”
“Early today in Iraq, at the request of the Kurdistan Regional Government, U.S. Special Operations Forces supported an Iraqi Peshmerga operation to rescue hostages at an ISIL prison near Hawijah, Iraq,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement Thursday confirming the raid, using the government’s acronym to describe ISIS.
“This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution,” Cook said. “It was authorized consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces.”