Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, 34, and Capt. Moises A. Navas, 34, were identified as two Marine Raiders killed in Iraq on Sunday. Both were part of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
According to the Marine Corps Times, the men were part of an “advise and assist” operation aimed at clearing the Makhmur Mountains of ISIS outposts. The incident occurred about 60 km (37 miles) south of Irbil, Iraq. Coalition forces were inside a complex of caves and tunnels to remove the ISIS fighters inside. According to the VA Star, 25 ISIS fighters were killed, and nine tunnels and an ISIS training camp were destroyed during the mission.
It took 6 hours for the coalition forces to recover the bodies of the two men, due to heavy fighting. The Marine Corps Times stated that 17-19 ISIS fighters were eliminated during the mission, which is slightly lower than the number quoted by local media VC Star.
The Marine Raiders killed in Iraq
GySgt Diego Pongo
Gunnery Sgt Diego D. Pongo was a critical skills operator from Simi Valley, California. He enlisted in the Corps in 2004.
“The command as a whole became witness to his dynamic personality, and love for family, when he brought his mom to this past year’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball ceremony and together they out-danced the rest of us on the dance floor. He also loved going on adventures with his daughter, hiking, camping, and woodworking.” Col John Lynch, Commander, Marine Raider Regiment
GySgt Pongo was an advanced sniper, a foreign weapons instructor, a combat marksmanship leader, and fluent in multiple languages. He is survived by his daughter and mother. He was a Raider since 2011.
According to the VC Star,
During his eight years as a Marine raider, Pongo completed deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for heroic actions against the enemy in 2013 while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Other personal decorations also include a Purple Heart, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons, the Army Valorous Unit Award, four Good Conduct Medals, two Humanitarian Service Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.
Captain Moises Navas
“Mo”, as he was known, was a special operations officer born in Panama, and grew up in Germantown, Maryland. He enlisted in the Corps in 2004, and deployed as a Raider to Iraq multiple times. Prior to becoming a Raider, he deployed to Japan twice. He was a scout sniper, martial arts instructor and combat diver. He is survived by his wife, a daughter, and 3 sons.
According to Commander Lynch, he had recently been selected for promotion to Major.
According to WFLA, his awards and decorations included,
“the Purple Heart, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, two Good Conduct Medals, and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons.”
Rest in Peace, gentlemen.
Featured photo: Marine Corps L-GySgt Pongo, R- Capt Moises Navas