The Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) has identified the two Marine Raiders, who were killed in action, supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, March 8.
The two Critical Skills Operators killed in action are Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, a critical skills operator from Simi Valley, Calif., and Capt. Moises A. Navas, a special operations officer from Germantown, Md. They suffered fatal wounds while accompanying Iraqi Security Forces during a mission to eliminate an ISIS stronghold in a mountainous area of north-central Iraq. Both were 34 years old and assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.
Captain Navas (right) and Gunny Pongo (left).
The following statement was released by the Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer, Col. John Lynch:
“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. 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…Captain Navas to his wife, daughter, and three young sons, and Gunnery Sgt. Pongo to his little girl. 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.
Captain 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, a combat diver, and was recently selected for promotion to the rank of Major. The hearts of the entire Marine Raider community are with the Pongo and Navas families as we mourn this tremendous loss. In times like these, we come together and rely on each other, sharing our burdens and providing strength to those that need it. We will do everything we can to lift up and support our grieving families in order to honor the incredible lives and the ultimate sacrifices of Gunnery Sgt. Pongo and Capt. Navas.”
The two Marines were killed while clearing a tunnel complex in the Qarachogh mountain region of northern Iraq, outside the town of Makhmour while supporting the Iraqi Special Forces in the fight against ISIS.
During the operation, between 17 and 19 ISIS fighters were also killed. The fighting in the area was so intense, it took coalition forces six hours to recover the bodies of the two fallen Marines.
The operators were part of Operation Inherent Resolve, a multinational operation that began in 2014 and is tasked with defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Pongo had been a Critical Skills Operator since 2011 and had been deployed several times in support of ongoing combat operations. Navas graduated from the Critical Skills Operator course in 2016 and had spent the last four years assigned to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, serving as a Team Commander and Company Executive Officer. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve before this current combat deployment to Iraq.