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Joshua Lloyd Wheeler (22 November 1975 – 22 October 2015) was a United States Army Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (aka Delta Force) Master Sergeant who was killed in Iraq during Operation Inherent Resolve.[1][2] He was the first American service member killed in action as a result of enemy fire while fighting ISIS militants and at the time of his death was the first American to be killed in action in Iraq since November 2011.[3][4] Wheeler was a highly decorated Delta Force soldier having earned 11 Bronze Star Medals including four with Valor Devices.[5] He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and the Medal of Patriotism.[5][6][7]

Joshua Wheeler
Joshua Wheeler portrait.jpg
Born(1975-11-22)22 November 1975
Roland, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died22 October 2015(2015-10-22) (aged 39)
Kirkuk Province, Iraq
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1995–2015
RankArmy-USA-OR-08b.svg Master sergeant
UnitUnited States Army Special Operations Command DUI.png USA Special Operations Command
Delta Force
75th Ranger Regiment
Battles/warsGlobal War on Terrorism
AwardsSilver Star
Bronze Star (11, 4 with Valor)
Purple Heart

Early life and educationEdit

Wheeler was born in Roland, Oklahoma. He graduated from Muldrow High School in Muldrow, Oklahoma in 1994.[3][5] He was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.


Wheeler enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 1995 as an infantryman and completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia.[5][8] He was then stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington and assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment until 1997 when he was assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.[5] Wheeler deployed three times in support of combat operations to Afghanistan and Iraq with the 75th Ranger Regiment.[4] In 2004 Wheeler was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and was assigned to the United States Army Special Operations Command's Delta Force in which he was a team leader deploying 11 times to Afghanistan and Iraq in support of combat operations.[4][5]


Wheeler was killed in the predawn hours of 22 October 2015 during Operation Inherent Resolve as a result of enemy small-arms fire sustained during a raid on a ISIS prison compound 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) North of the town of Hawija in Iraq's Kirkuk province.[1][4][9] He was one of around 30 U.S. special operations soldiers who fought alongside Kurdish Counter-terrorism unit peshmerga forces. The operation secured the release of approximately 70 hostages, including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, being held in the compound.[3][8][10] Wheeler was directing the Kurdish attack on the prison and joined the fighting when those who had breached the compound came under fire inside.[3][6] Reports stated that Wheeler ran toward the sound of the gunfire and that his actions along with those of one of his teammates ensured the success of the operation and protected those Kurdish fighters who had breached the compound.[3] The Kurdistan Regional Government asked U.S. special operations forces to support an operation to free hostages that were being held inside the prison and were going to be executed.[10] Information had been obtained which stated the hostages faced imminent execution and it was confirmed that graves had already been prepared for the hostages outside of the compound.[11][12] The Kurdish government stated after the raid that none of the 15 Kurdish fighters who were the object of the operation were found and that none of the hostages freed were Kurdish.[3][13] Four Kurdish peshmerga soldiers were wounded during the operation.[10] Five ISIS militants were detained during the operation and approximately 20 were killed.[2][10]

Personal lifeEdit

Wheeler lived in North Carolina with his four sons and wife, Ashley, who had given birth in August 2015 to his fourth son. His three older sons were from a previous marriage.[3] Wheeler was a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Patriotism by the Cherokee Nation in July 2016.[14]

Awards and decorationsEdit

At the time of his death Wheeler had been awarded the following awards and decorations, except for the Silver Star, the Purple Heart and the Medal of Patriotism, which were awarded posthumously.

  Combat Infantryman Badge
  Expert Infantryman Badge
  Ranger tab
  Senior Parachutist Badge
  Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge
  Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle Component Bar
  Silver German Parachutist Badge
  75th Ranger Regiment Distinctive Unit Insignia
  9 Overseas Service Bars
  6 Service stripes
  Silver Star
     Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and two silver oak leaf clusters
  Purple Heart
  Defense Meritorious Service Medal
  Meritorious Service Medal
  Air Medal
    Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor Device and oak leaf cluster
    Army Commendation Medal with six oak leaf clusters
  Joint Service Achievement Medal
     Army Achievement Medal with seven oak leaf clusters
  Navy Presidential Unit Citation
Valorous Unit Award with oak leaf cluster
  Cherokee National Medal of Patriotism
   Army Good Conduct Medal (6 awards)
National Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star
  Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (device(s) unknown)
     Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three campaign stars
    Iraq Campaign Medal with six campaign stars
  Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
   Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon with bronze award numeral 3
  Army Service Ribbon
   Army Overseas Service Ribbon with award numeral 2
  NATO Medal for service with ISAF

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b U.S. Department of Defense (October 23, 2015). "DoD Identifies Army Casualty". U.S. Department of Defense. U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  2. ^ a b McGarry, Brendan (October 23, 2015). "Pentagon Identifies First KIA in Fight against Islamic State". Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "U.S. Identifies American Killed in Iraq Raid as Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler". Wall Street Journal. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "DoD identifies soldier killed in commando raid in Iraq". Army Times. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, U.S. Commando Killed in ISIS Raid, Ran to Gunfight". NBC News. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Hero killed in ISIS raid Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, first U.S. soldier to die in combat against Islamic State". New York Daily News. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  7. ^ "U.S. ARMY SILVER STAR RECIPIENTS For Actions Since September 11, 2001". United States Department of Defense. May 1, 2017. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Who Was Joshua Wheeler? US Soldier Killed In Anti-ISIS Iraqi Hostage Rescue Mission". International Business Times. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  9. ^ Torbati, Yeganeh (2015-10-23). "U.S. soldier killed in Iraq raid rushed into firefight: Carter". Reuters. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  10. ^ a b c d U.S. Department of Defense (October 22, 2015). "Statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook On Hostage Rescue Mission in Iraq". U.S. Department of Defense. U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  11. ^ "Pentagon confirms first US combat death against ISIS". The Hill. October 22, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  12. ^ "Carter: ISIS hostages saved by US raid already had graves dug". The Hill. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  13. ^ "Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler ID'd as US soldier killed in Iraqi raid". Gulf Live. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  14. ^ November Wallace 4 months ago. "Cherokee Nation Honors Fallen Hero Joshua Wheeler". Native News Online. Retrieved 2016-11-05.

External linksEdit