MSG Joshua L. Wheeler
from Roland, Oklahoma
MSG Wheeler served with: B_Co 2_75_Ranger_Bn
Born in 1976, Ranger Wheeler was 39 years old at the time of his death in 2015.
MSG Joshua L. Wheeler 's Biography
Wheeler died from enemy gunfire while in combat near Hawijah,
Iraq. When Kurdish commandos went on a helicopter raid to rescue about 70 hostages who were about to be executed by Islamic State militants, the plan called for the Americans who accompanied them to offer support, not join in the action, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said on Friday. But then the Kurdish attack on the prison where the hostages were held stalled, and Sergeant Wheeler responded.
During his military service, MSG Joshua L. Wheeler also served in Headquarters, U.S. Army Special Operations Command
MSG Joshua Wheeler, a veteran of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and most recently serving as a team leader with Delta - was the first U.S. service member killed in action in the fight against ISIS on October 22nd, 2015.
MASTER SGT. JOSHUA L. WHEELER
Died on Oct. 22, 2015
Operation Inherent Resolve
Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, assigned to Headquarters, U.S.
Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina,
was killed in action Oct. 22, while deployed in support of Operation
Wheeler died from enemy gunfire while in combat near Hawijah,
He was born Nov. 22, 1975, in Roland, Oklahoma, and graduated in
1994 from Muldrow High School in Muldrow, Oklahoma.
Wheeler entered the U.S. Army as an infantryman in May 1995, completing his initial entry training at Fort Benning, Ga. His first assignment was with Company C, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Washington.
In February 1997, he transitioned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis, Washington, where he served for over seven years as an infantryman, rifle team leader, squad leader, weapons squad leader, and anti-tank section leader, deploying three times in support of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wheeler was assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command in 2004, and deployed 11 times in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wheeler’s military education includes the Basic Airborne Course, Ranger School, Warrior Leader Course, Static Line Jumpmaster, Military Mountaineering Course, Basic and Advanced Demolition
Courses, Advanced Urban Combat Training, Advanced Marksmanship Techniques, Close Range Tactical M4 Training, Infantry Advanced Leader’s Course, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (Level C) Course, Infantry Senior Leader’s, Military Free Fall Course, and the Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Course.
Master Sergeant Wheeler’s awards and decorations 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,
As of 21 Oct., 2015 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.
Master Sergeant Wheeler was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. He is survived by his wife, four sons, and his grandmother and grandfather.
U.S. Soldier’s Life, Recreated in Army, Ends in Combat
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, KATIE ROGERS and DAVE PHILIPPSOCT. 23, 2015
Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, who died Thursday in Iraq. Credit U.S. Army, via Associated Press
In a thinly populated, economically struggling patch of eastern Oklahoma, Joshua L. Wheeler had a difficult childhood and few options. The Army offered an escape, but it turned into much more. He made a career in uniform, becoming a highly decorated combat veteran in the elite and secretive Delta Force.
"In that area, if you didn’t go to college, you basically had a choice of the oil fields or the military," said his uncle, Jack Shamblin. "The Army really suited him; he always had such robust energy and he always wanted to help people, and he felt he was doing that."
That protective instinct was evident from grade school when, as the oldest child in a dysfunctional home, he was often the one who made sure his siblings were clothed and fed. And it was on display on Thursday, when Master Sergeant Wheeler, 39, a father of four who was thinking of retiring from the Army, became the first American in four years to die in combat in Iraq.
U.S. Soldier Dies in Raid to Free Prisoners of ISIS in Iraq OCT. 22, 2015
When Kurdish commandos went on a helicopter raid to rescue about 70 hostages who were about to be executed by Islamic State militants, the plan called for the Americans who accompanied them to offer support, not join in the action, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said on Friday. But then the Kurdish attack on the prison where the hostages were held stalled, and Sergeant Wheeler responded.
Pentagon on Soldier Killed During Raid
Pentagon on Soldier Killed During Raid
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter spoke of Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, an American soldier killed in Iraq while working with Kurdish forces known as pesh merga fighters against the Islamic State.
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish Date October 23, 2015. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters.
"He ran to the sound of the guns," Mr. Carter said. "Obviously, we’re very saddened that he lost his life," he said, adding, "I’m immensely proud of this young man."
A former Delta Force officer who had commanded Sergeant Wheeler in Iraq and had been briefed on the mission said that the Kurdish fighters, known as pesh merga, tried to blast a hole in the compound’s outer wall, but could not. Sergeant Wheeler and another American, part of a team of 10 to 20 Delta Force operators who were present, ran up to the wall, breached it with explosives, and were the first ones through the hole.
"When you blow a hole in a compound wall, all the enemy fire gets directed toward that hole, and that is where he was," said the former officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the operation. The military does not officially acknowledge the existence of the Delta Force, the Army counterpart to Navy SEAL teams.
Aerial reconnaissance had shown a newly dug mass grave at the prison, and the hostages were to be killed on the morning of the raid, Mr. Carter said. "That location was planned to be an execution center."
The mission was a success, and the hostages were freed. A few of the pesh merga fighters were injured.
The only rescuer who died was Sergeant Wheeler, a veteran of 14 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, with a chest full of medals. His honors included four Bronze Stars with the letter V, awarded for valor in combat; and seven Bronze Stars, awarded for heroic or meritorious service in a combat zone. His body will be returned to the United States on Saturday.
He died far from his roots in Sequoyah County, Okla., just across the state border from Fort Smith, Ark.
His mother, Diane, had two marriages to troubled and abusive men, both ending in divorce, said Mr. Shamblin, her brother. She had two sons with her first husband and three daughters with her second, and outlived both men. She died last year at age 60.
One of Sergeant Wheeler’s sisters, Rachel Quackenbush, said her parents were "mentally gone." Family members said that they often got by on some form of government assistance. Later in life, their mother, who was part Cherokee, like many people in the region, received help from the Cherokee nation.
It was her brother who held them together, making sure the younger children ate breakfast, got dressed and made it to school, even changing dirty diapers. On his own initiative, Mr. Shamblin said, he held a variety of jobs, including roofing and work on a blueberry farm, to bring in a few extra dollars.
Sergeant Wheeler’s grandparents, now in their 80s, often took care of the children. "They were the only really stable influence," Mr. Shamblin said.
Ms. Quackenbush, 30, recalled one of her brother’s first visits home from the military, when she was still a child. He noticed that the pantries were bare, retrieved a gun and left. "He went out and he shot a deer," she said. "He made us deer meat and cooked us dinner."
But at Muldrow High School, where he graduated in 1994, people saw no sign of the turmoil at home.
"He was always funny, even mischievous, but always the guy who seemed like he had your back," said April Isa, a classmate who now teaches English at the high school. "Most of our class was cliques, but he wasn’t with just one group. He was friends with everyone."
Ron Flanagan, the Muldrow schools superintendent, was the assistant principal at the high school when Sergeant Wheeler attended classes there. "The thing I remember most clearly is that he was extremely respectful to everybody, classmates and teachers," he said. "He was a good kid who didn’t get in any trouble."
Mr. Wheeler enlisted in 1995, and in 1997 he joined the Rangers, a specially trained group within the Army.
From 2004, he was assigned to Army Special Operations Command, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., which includes Delta Force, the extremely selective unit that carries out some of the military’s riskiest operations. He completed specialized training in several fields, including parachute jumping, mountaineering, leading infantry units, explosives and urban combat.
"He was very focused, knew his job in and out," said the former officer who had commanded Sergeant Wheeler. "It is hard to describe these guys. They are taciturn, very introspective, but extremely competent. They are Jason Bournes, they really are."
He had three sons by his first marriage, which ended in divorce. He remarried in 2013, and he and his wife, Ashley, have an infant boy.
"He could never say much about where he went or what he did, but it was clear he loved it," Mr. Shamblin said. "And even after all that time in combat, there was such a kindness, a sweetness about him."
On visits home, either to Oklahoma or North Carolina, he focused on his boys and his extended family. Ms. Quackenbush said that when he would have to leave on another deployment, he would claim it was just for training, which she understood was untrue.
"He was exactly what was right about this world," she said. "He came from nothing and he really made something out of himself."