Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Moises A Navas

Germantown, Maryland

March 8, 2020

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
34 Marine Capt

2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command

Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

 Killed while supporting Iraqi Security Forces in north central Iraq.

From The Daily Breeze dailybreeze.com 03/10/20

Highly decorated Simi Valley Marine killed on ISIS mission in Iraq 
By Erika I. Ritchie Orange County Register

A highly decorated Simi Valley serviceman was among two special operations Marines killed Sunday, March 8, in a mountainous region of Iraq, Pentagon officials announced Tuesday.
Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, 34, a critical skills operator, and Capt. Moises A. Navas, 34, of Germantown, Md., a special operations officer, were both killed while supporting Iraqi Security Forces.

The U.S. and Iraqi forces were on a “mission to eliminate an ISIS terrorist stronghold in a mountainous area of north-central Iraq,” said a statement from the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
On the evening of March 8, the U.S.-led coalition launched additional forces to recover the two U.S. service members from the southern Makhmur Mountains, about 60 kilometers south of Erbil, said Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a coalition military spokesman.
“The forces trekked through mountainous terrain and eliminated four hostile ISIS fighters who were barricaded in the caves,” he said. “The recovery took approximately six hours.”
Current estimates are that as many as 19 ISIS fighters were killed.
Pongo entered the Marine Corps in 2004 and spent his early years as a rifleman, deploying once with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit before completing the Scout Sniper Basic Course in 2008. He deployed to the Helmand Province of Afghanistan with Camp Pendleton’s 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment as a sniper team leader.

Pongo was then selected to attend the grueling nine-month Individual Training Course to become a critical skills operator and earned the coveted Marine Special Operator Insignia in 2011.
During his eight years as a Marine Raider, Pongo completed deployments to 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.
He also was awarded 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 entered the Marine Corps in October 2004. He began serving with Marine Forces Special Operations Command on Dec. 3, 2011. He was on his fifth deployment when he was killed.
During his eight years as a Marine Raider, Navas deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for heroic actions against the enemy in 2013.
He also was awarded 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.

“On behalf of the Marine Raider Regiment and all of (Marine Forces Special Operations Command), our most sincere condolences go out to the families of Gunnery Sgt. Pongo and Capt. Navas,” Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer Col. John Lynch said in a statement. “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,” he said. “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 organization’s leaders in the future."

Pongo will be posthumously awarded with a Bronze Star with Combat “V” and a Purple Heart, while Navas will receive a Bronze Star with Combat “V,” a Purple Heart and a Combat Action Ribbon.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led fight against ISIS, started in 2014. Since it began, 17 U.S. military have been killed in action, according to the Department of Defense.
On Aug.10, Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, died after being engaged by “enemy small-arms fire” while accompanying Iraqi Security Forces on an operation in the Ninewah province.
Koppenhaver, of Mancos, Colo., also served with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. He was part of a team of Iraqi and U.S. troops conducting an operation against a suspected ISIS target.

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