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Scott A. Dyer

U.S. Marine Corps / Bronze Star with Valor

Marine reservist plays key roll in battles to take Nasiriyah

Capt. Scott Dyer had planned to spend the spring semester of 2003 in law school. Instead, he ended up perched in the turret of his M-1 Abrams tank, “Dark Side,” firing a .50-cal machine gun during the biggest battle of the early days of the Iraq war.

Dyer was executive officer for Company A, 8th Tanks, a reserve unit based in Louisville, Ky. Called to war at virtually the last minute, Dyer hustled to get the Marines and equipment ready to deploy; the commanding officer, Maj. Bill Peeples, chartered a bus that got Company A to Camp Lejeune only a day prior to its departure for Kuwait.

Just four days into the invasion of Iraq, as they and other tank commanders led 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines past the villages and agricultural fields just south of Nasiriyah, Dyer suddenly heard the loud sounds of artillery shells hitting a field just to the left. Dyer spun and saw black smoke boiling into the clear sky.

Within seconds, Iraqi machine gun and small arms fire hit near them. Dyer saw the barrel of a machine gun firing from one of the farmhouses lining both sides of the road.

“Keep moving!” he was ordered, and the tanks returned fire at the farmhouses as they moved towards the city.

As the tanks drove, Cpl. Charles Bell, Dyer’s gunner, was firing his coaxial machine gun and looking for targets for the main gun. “Target acquired,” he shouted. “Truck at 700 meters!”

Dyer looked at the target. The Marines had been warned about Iraqis painting their trucks to look like American vehicles. And something about this one just didn’t look right. He fortuitously told Bell to hold fire, and a Humvee, so badly shot up that its tires were on fire, limped out of the smoke.

An Army captain -Troy King, commander of the Army’s 507th Maintenance Battalion – jumped out of it and began screaming for help. He’d left 15 vehicles and most of his soldiers behind, lost in the city.

Advised by radio of the situation, the battalion commander barked his orders to Dyer: “You’ve got to get them.”

Dyer and Peeples took their tanks forward, and a few miles ahead found two groups of soldiers under attack. Dyer maneuvered his tank between the Iraqis and the soldiers and began to drive the enemy back with machine-gun fire. But as more Iraqis rushed the tanks, even Dyer’s heavy fire appeared inadequate.Immediate air support was requested and, within minutes, Cobra gunships were making multiple strafing runs from near-treetop levels.

With the soldiers rescued, Dyer and Peeples moved their tanks to the rear to refuel. Suddenly, however, the commander was back on the radio: The tanks were needed up front, pronto. The battalion had been ordered to attack into the city after Iraqi tanks were spotted guarding a bridge the Marines needed to cross.

With some tanks fueled and others not, they rushed north again, ignoring the thick black smoke from the burning 507th vehicles as they moved to the front of the column to lead the Marines into the city.

Dyer and three other tanks moved to the Euphrates River Bridge, where Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines were fighting off waves of Iraqi attackers. One tank wheeled left and began firing its big gun at the rocket-propelled grenade gunners hiding in the buildings.

With three rounds, Dyer took out three buildings. Soon, though, a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades enveloped the tank and its guns fell silent, a huge cloud of smoke completely obscuring the 70-ton Abrams. Finally, the tank lurched forward and used its main gun to blast the building into rubble.

More trouble, however, was ahead. Another radio call, this one garbled, pleaded for help: “Charlie Company is being slaughtered north of the Saddam Canal Bridge … we need help now.” Dyer and Peeples roared north to assist.

Marines had been attacked, both by both Iraqis and by “friendly fire” from Air Force A-10s. Peeples kept his tank with Charlie Company while Dyer’s, now the lead Marine unit, moved another mile north. With Dyer on his machine gun and with more air support, the road was secured until more Marines arrived the next morning.

Andrew Lubin is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania who has embedded with the Marine Corps in Iraq; Afghanistan; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Beirut, Lebanon. He is the author of “Charlie Battery: A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq.”

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Capt. Scott Dyer stands at the gun of an M-1 Abrams tank. Dyer was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor attachment for his involvement in a series of battles in the initial days of the Iraq War. Photo courtesy Scott Dyer

  • Dyer-in-tank
  • Dyer-and-wife

Scott A. Dyer

U.S. Marine Corps / Bronze Star with Valor

Born January 29, 1969, in Bloomington, Indiana.

Wife, Elizabeth, and one son, Walter.

Enlisted in June 1987, and served one tour of duty in Iraq with Company A, 8th Tanks, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines.

What he did:
Manned his M-1 Abrams tank through a series of key battles as the Marine Corps fought to capture Nasiriyah, an Iraqi stronghold on the road to Baghdad.

Where he is now:
Dyer retired as a Captain, and now practices law in Louisville, Kentucky.

Why he joined the Marines:
“I met a Marine recruiter who suggested that since I was 17 and had an 'attitude,' we needed to talk. … After six hours with him, I realized that the Marine Corps offered me everything I was looking to do in my life.”

Iraq / Nasiriyah

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