Diego D. Pongo and Moises A. Navas Wiki – Biography
Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, 34, of Simi Valley, Calif., and Capt. Moises A. Navas, 34, of Germantown, Md., were supporting Iraqi Security Forces in a mountainous area of Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the Department of Defense said Tuesday.
Diego D. Pongo and Moises A. Navas Two U.S. Marines killed by “enemy forces” during a mission to eliminate an ISIS terrorist stronghold in north-central Iraq on Sunday have been identified.
Both Marines were assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command out of Camp Lejeune in N.C.
The U.S.-led coalition launched additional forces to recover the bodies from the southern Makhmur Mountains, about 37 miles (60km) south of Erbil, coalition spokesman Col. Myles Caggins said in a statement.
As the forces trekked across the mountainous terrain, they eliminated four hostile ISIS fighters who were barricaded in caves, Caggins said. The full recovery operation took about six hours.
The deaths of Pongo and Navas marked the first U.S. troops to be killed in Iraq this year. The last American to be killed in action in Iraq was a U.S. Marine in August 2019.
There have now been 19 American service members killed fighting ISIS since August 2014, when U.S. military involvement began.
Diego D. Pongo and Moises A. Navas Age
Diego D. Pongo and Moises A. Navas was 34 years old.
US servicemen killed in Iraq during mission against ISIS identified, were part of Marine Raider Battalion
A highly decorated Simi Valley Marine known for his “larger-than-life” personality was killed during a mission to eliminate an Islamic State stronghold in north central Iraq, the Defense Department said Tuesday.
Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, a critical-skills operator from Simi Valley, and Capt. Moises A. Navas, a special operations officer from Germantown, Maryland, suffered fatal wounds in the clash on Sunday.
Both were 34 years old and assigned to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer Col. John Lynch remembered both men as “incredibly humble.”
“Gunnery Sgt. Pongo balanced that with his larger-than-life personality,” Lynch said in a statement.
“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,” Lynch said. “He also loved going on adventures with his daughter, hiking, camping, and woodworking.”
Pongo was an advanced sniper, a foreign weapons instructor and a combat marksmanship leader who was fluent in multiple languages, according to Lynch.
Pongo enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 and spent his initial years as a rifleman, deploying once with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit before completing the scout sniper basic course in 2008, the Defense Department said. He then deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan as a sniper team leader. Pongo then participated in a nine-month course to become a critical-skills operator and earned the Marine Special Operator Insignia in December 2011.
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.
He is survived by his daughter and parents.
He and Navas were killed in a firefight with Islamic State militants in the mountainous northern Iraqi district of Makhmur. They were there to accompany and advise Iraqi security forces.
On Monday, Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service announced it had conducted a raid a day earlier on an Islamic State encampment in the Qarachogh mountain range, about 37 miles southwest of the city of Irbil.
The clashes involving U.S. troops and Iraqi forces took place in a cave complex where 25 Islamic State militants were killed and nine tunnels and a training camp were destroyed.
The Islamic State fighters quickly emerged from an entrance and killed Pongo and Navas, said an Iraqi officer who requested anonymity to be able to discuss operational matters.
“They dragged their bodies into the cave complex,” he said.
U.S. forces then stormed the area to recover the lost men; four of their members were wounded.
“It was a big firefight, one of the most intense we’ve faced in this period,” he said.
Lynch mourned the loss of the men.
“Our most sincere condolences go out to the families of Gunnery Sgt. Pongo and Capt. Navas. The loss of these two incredible individuals is being felt across our organization, but it cannot compare to the loss that their families and teammates are experiencing,” Lynch said. “Both men epitomize what it means to be a Marine Raider. They were intelligent, courageous, and loyal. They were dedicated leaders, true professionals in their craft, and willing to go above and beyond for the mission and their team. They were not just leaders today, they were both on the path to be our organizations leaders in the future. They were also family men, adoring husbands and fathers …Capt. Navas to his wife, daughter, and three young sons, and Gunnery Sgt. Pongo to his little girl.”