- US Army
The Department of Defense has released the name of the first American soldier killed in the line of fire during operations against ISIS, the Army Times reports.
Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler died on October 22 after injuries from small arms fire during a raid in northern Iraq that liberated 69 people from an ISIS-run prison. Wheeler was one of the Delta Force commandos who participated in the raid in conjunction with Kurdish forces.
According to the Army Times, Wheeler, who was from Roland, Oklahoma, first joined the Army in 1995 as an infantryman. After enlisting, he “served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, deploying three times to support combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, before being assigned to USASOC headquarters. He deployed 11 times after that to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to information released by USASOC.”
Wheeler was the first US casualty of the ongoing operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Although Wheeler died during the operation, the raid against the ISIS prison in Hawija, Iraq was a success. The operation freed 69 hostages, while five senior ISIS militants were captured.
The US launched the operation “after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution” at the hands of ISIS, Reuters reports citing a statement by Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. The hostages included 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces.
The New York Times reports that during the operation Kurdish forces took the lead while US Special Operations Forces, helicopters, and airstrikes provided support. Four Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers were also wounded in the operation, the Army Times reports.
After the completion of the raid Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, US Central Command commander, released the following statement:
“Last night, Iraqi forces, supported by a US Special Operations team in their advise and assist capacity, conducted a complex and highly-successful operation that resulted in the freeing of approximately 70 hostages held by ISIL in an prison near Hawijah, Iraq. We commend and congratulate the brave individuals who participated in this successful operation that saved many lives, and we deeply mourn the loss of one of our own who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight. Our gratitude and heartfelt condolences go out to this young man’s family, his teammates and friends.”