Two Marine Raiders supporting Operation Inherent Resolve were killed in Iraq at the weekend, Marine Forces Special Operations Command said in a statement.
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., 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 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.
Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer, Col. John Lynch, said:
“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…Capt. 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.”
“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, 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.”
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. He then deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment as a Sniper Team Leader. Gunnery Sgt. Pongo was then selected to attend the grueling 9-month Individual Training Course to become a Critical Skills Operator and earned the coveted Marine Special Operator Insignia in December 2011. During his 8 years as a Marine Raider, Gunnery Sgt. Pongo completed deployments to both 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. In addition to his Bronze Star, Gunnery Sgt. Pongo’s 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.
Capt. Navas enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 and achieved the rank of sergeant before receiving his commission through the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program in July 2010. Originally an administrative clerk, he was assigned to Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., before his selection to MECEP. Upon his commissioning and completion of The Basic School, he became an infantry officer and was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment where he supported two Unit Deployments to Japan, and served as Company G’s Executive Officer. In 2014, Navas was selected to attend the Army’s Maneuver Captain’s Career Course in Ft. Benning, Ga. While awaiting orders to school, he completed MARSOC’s Assessment and Selection process, securing his spot in a future ITC class, which he completed in the spring of 2016, earning the special operations officer MOS. Capt. Navas spent the last 4 years assigned to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, where he served as a Team Commander and Company Executive Officer, deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve before this current deployment to Iraq.
Capt. Navas was a graduate of the USMC Expeditionary Warfare School Non-Resident Course, the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Captain’s Career Course, the USMC Command and Staff College Non-Resident Course, Marine Combatant Diver Course, and Military Freefall Course.
His personal decorations include 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.
He is survived by his wife, daughter, three sons, parents, and brother.