After 24 hours delay, Pentagon has identified two decorated special forces Marine Raiders, as Gunnery Sgt. Diego Pongo and Capt. Moises Navas, both 34. They were killed during a military operation in Iraq while assisting Iraqi special forces. The primary objective was to clear a cave complex in Iraq.
Marine Raiders were engaged in a heavy firefight with ISIS militants and they were shot ‘at close range’. It was one of the “most intense” battles US forces have been involved in recent months, according to the sources close to the US-led coalition.
Gunnery Sgt. Diego Pongo and Capt. Moises Navas were killed by enemy forces on Sunday during a mission to eliminate an ISIS stronghold in a mountainous area of Iraq. The mission began with several dozen Iraqi counterterrorism forces, along with approximately a dozen special forces Marines traveled by helicopter to the area where intelligence showed 15 to 20 ISIS fighters had hidden.
It’s been reported they were shot at close range by ISIS fighters as they approached the target.
Both killed Marines were highly decorated operators. During his time as a Marine Raider, Diego Pongo was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for heroic actions in 2013. His personal decorations also include a Purple Heart, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and 15 other commendations. The same goes for Moises Navas. He earned a Purple Heart and more than a dozen other decorations for his service. He was recently selected for promotion to the rank of major.
The aftermath of this operation was two Marine Raiders killed and three other Americans and one coalition member were wounded. That essentially took out the fighting capability of half the team led by the Marine Raiders.
After the initial firefight, a team of Army Delta Force special operations troops were sent to recover the bodies of the two fallen soldiers, according to a US official. The coalition has not publicly acknowledged that Delta was involved.
Their effort became a six-hour mission in which the Delta operators encountered more opposition, killing four ISIS militants.