According to a U.S. Department of Defense press release, Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Oklahoma, has been identified as the sole U.S. casualty in an Oct. 22 predawn raid on an Islamic State detention facility near Hawijah, Iraq. Wheeler is the first American service member killed in Operation Inherent Resolve action against ISIS militants.
Wheeler “suffered a gunshot wound and was evacuated by helicopter to a U.S. base in Irbil, where he died,” reports Army Times, quoting an unnamed defense official. Wheeler was part of a combined U.S. Special Operations and Kurdish peshmerga fighters mission that rescued over 70 hostages, including more than 20 Iraqi security force members.
A U.S. Special Operations Command (USASOC) biographical sketch states Wheeler was assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The sketch also states Wheeler entered the U.S. Army in May 1995, after graduating from Muldrow High School in Muldrow, Oklahoma, in 1994.
After finishing his initial entry training at Fort Benning, Ga. in 1997, Wheeler was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Washington. Wheeler transferred to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis, Washington, in February 1997, and he served over seven years as an infantryman, rifle team leader, squad leader, weapons squad leader, and anti-tank section leader. Initially, Wheeler was assigned to three combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the USASOC biographical sketch, after Wheeler was assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command in 2004, he was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq 11 more times to support combat operations.
During his 20-year military career, Wheeler received an extensive amount of awards and decorations, which include four Bronze Star Medals with Valor Device, seven Bronze Star Medals, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor Device, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, seven Army Commendation Medals, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, eight Army Achievement Medals, the Good Conduct Medal (6th Award), the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Service Star, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Service Stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with 6 Bronze Service Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (3rd Award), the Army Service Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Valorous Unit Award (2nd Award), the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, and three Overseas Service Bars.
The USASOC biographical sketch also states Wheeler has been posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. Wheeler is survived by his wife, four sons, and his grandmother and grandfather.
My deepest condolences to the family of US Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler who died from enemy gunfire in Iraq. pic.twitter.com/Vj7KGK3uGU— Wolf Blitzer (@wolfblitzer) October 23, 2015
The Inquisitr extends our sincere condolences to the family of US Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler. We salute the service and sacrifice of a loyal, brave American hero, who fell to free others from a terrible fate.
[Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense]