iStock/Thinkstock(VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.) — The U.S. Navy has identified Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Cooper Dayton as the U.S. service member who died Thursday in Syria after succumbing to wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device.
“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 the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, said in a statement.
His death marks the first time a U.S. service member has been killed in Syria in the current conflict, a senior defense official confirmed to ABC News Thursday. He died near the city of Ayn Issa in northern Syria on Thanksgiving Day, according to U.S. Central Command.
The sailor was based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he was assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two, the Navy said.
Dayton entered the military in 1993, and since then has earned 19 awards and attained Enlisted Explosive Ordnance Disposal Warfare Specialist and Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist qualifications during his career, the Navy said.
Among his decorations were the Bronze Star, combat ribbons, as well as multiple commendations, achievement and service medals.
The precise circumstances of Dayton’s duties in Syria at the time of his death are not known. At any one time, up to 300 U.S. service members could be operating in Syria, where they are advising and assisting Syrian Kurdish and Arab rebel forces who are fighting ISIS.
“The entire counter-ISIL Coalition sends our condolences to this hero’s family, friends and teammates,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, said in an emailed statement Thursday. “On this Thanksgiving, please be thankful that there are service members willing to take up the fight to protect our homeland from ISIL’s hateful and brutal ideology.” (ISIL is another name for ISIS.)
On Thursday night, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement that he was “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,” and asked Americans to “please keep this [service member’s] family, friends and teammates in your thoughts and prayers, and this Thanksgiving I hope you will join me in expressing thanks to all of our dedicated troops who selflessly protect us [every day].”
In October 2015, President Barack Obama directed the Pentagon to insert special operations forces into Syria to advise and assist the Syrian opposition in its battle against ISIS militants.
The service member’s death follows the death of another U.S. service member in Iraq last month. The naval officer was killed by a roadside bomb north of the Iraqi city of Mosul, where he was serving as an adviser to Iraqi troops.
The U.S. is part of a multi-nation coalition that is battling ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
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