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Pentagon identifies 2 Marine Raiders killed during anti-ISIS mission in Iraq

Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, a critical skills operator from Simi Valley, Calif. He was 34 years old and assigned to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. | Capt. Moises A. Navas, a special operations officer from Germantown, Md. He was 34 years old and assigned to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. (U.S. Marine Corps/Released)
March 10, 2020

The Pentagon identified two U.S. service members who were killed on Sunday while on a mission to take out an ISIS stronghold in Iraq.

The two service members were identified as Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo and Capt. Moises A. Navas, both of whom were Marine Raiders with  2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Pongo and Navas were killed by enemy forces while on a joint mission with the Iraqi Security Forces to eliminate the ISIS stronghold located in the mountains of north-central Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Both Pongo and Navas were 34 years of age and had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004.

Pongo became a Marine Raider in December 2011, and throughout the next eight years, he deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. Pongo had received a Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for heroism during enemy conflict in 2013. He previously served as a rifleman.

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Pongo’s 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.

Navas became a Raider in 2016 and had multiple deployments over his four years in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve. He previously served as an administrative clerk and an infantry officer.

His 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.

“On behalf of the Marine Raider Regiment and all of MARSOC, 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,” Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer, Col. John Lynch said in a statement.

“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.”

Pongo is survived by his daughter and mother. Navas is survived by a wife, daughter, and three sons.

The CJTF – OIR coalition has reclaimed 42,471 square miles of territory from ISIS and freed 7.7 million people from the terror group’s oppressive hold, according to the coalition’s February report.

The coalition has also conducted 34,763 strikes between August 2014 and December 2019.

The deaths are the first U.S. deaths to occur during combat in Iraq so far this year.