The Department of Defense identified the two U.S. Marine Raiders who were killed on Sunday fighting against ISIS fighters in Iraq as Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, 34, and Capt. Moises A. Navas, 34.
Marine Forces Special Operations Command said Pongo and Navas, both assigned to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, suffered fatal wounds while accompanying Iraqi Security Forces during a mission to eliminate an ISIS stronghold in a mountainous area of north central Iraq.
Pongo, of Simi Valley, California, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 and had previously deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He went on to become a Marine Raider in 2011. In 2013, he earned a Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for heroic actions against the enemy in 2013 while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He is survived by his daughter and mother.
Navas, of Germantown, Maryland, also enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 and became a Marine Raider in 2016. He had previously deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve. Navas, who was recently selected for promotion to the rank of Major, is survived by his wife, daughter, and three sons.
"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. 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," Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer, Col. John Lynch said in a statement.
"Both men were incredibly humble and truly the quiet professionals that define our SOF warriors. Gunnery Sgt. Pongo balanced that with his larger-than-life personality. 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. He was a MARSOF advanced sniper, a foreign weapons instructor, a combat marksmanship leader, and he was fluent in multiple languages. Capt. Navas, who was known to most as 'Mo,' was born in Panama but grew up in Maryland. In addition to being a phenomenal Marine officer and Raider, he truly was a family man, and cherished his time watching his children play sports. He was also a scout sniper, a martial arts instructor, combat diver..."
The New York Times reported American commanders are reviewing how their forces conduct missions in Iraq and Syria after Pongo and Navas were killed while clearing a well-defended cave complex. The Quick Reaction Force that was activated to retrieve their bodies were members of the elite Delta Force.