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.
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 mother.
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, and three sons.
Please keep their families, friends, and fellow marines in your prayers.