The first American service member to die fighting the Islamic State in Syria was a decorated and highly experienced Navy explosive ordnance disposal specialist.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Cooper Dayton, 42, died Nov. 24, killed by wounds sustained in an improvised explosive device blast in northern Syria, Navy officials said in a news release. He was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The blast occurred in the vicinity of Ayn Issa, near the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, where U.S. troops are working with local forces to retake the city. Ayn Issa is also about 120 miles east of Aleppo. Dayton had been serving with Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation focused on defeating Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Dayton was from Woodbridge, Virginia, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg told Military.com. He was an enlisted explosive ordnance disposal warfare specialist and an enlisted surface warfare specialist, officials said.
Dayton had served in the Navy for 23 years, entering service in February 1993. And he had distinguished himself with numerous service awards, including the Bronze Star, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and seven Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. He had previously deployed twice to Iraq and had earned the Combat Action Ribbon, officials said in the release.
"We offer our deepest condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Dayton, who made the ultimate sacrifice on a day we set aside time to give thanks for our freedom and to recognize the men and women who defend that right," Rear Adm. Brian Brakke, commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, said in a statement.
The vast majority of U.S. efforts to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have consisted of airstrikes on strategic targets. While officials continue to maintain there are no U.S. combat troops on the ground in either country, relatively small contingents of U.S. advisers and special operators have been on the ground assisting local forces.
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter offered his condolences at the news of Dayton's death.
"I am deeply saddened by the news on this Thanksgiving Day that one of our brave service members has been killed in Syria while protecting us from the evil of ISIL," he said, using another name for the Islamic State.
Dayton's command and his family were expected to make statements about his death Friday evening, Cragg said.