A 34-year-old man from Simi Valley was one of two U.S. Marines killed this week while fighting Islamic State forces in a mountainous region of Iraq, military officials said this week.
Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, a critical skills operator, was accompanying Iraqi security forces when he was fatally wounded Sunday during a mission to eliminate one of the militant group’s strongholds, according to the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.
Pongo, who enlisted in 2004, served deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded the Bronze Star “for heroic actions against the enemy in 2013,” military officials said. He most recently was assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.
He also was the recipient of a Purple Heart, given to those wounded or killed while serving, as well as numerous other service, achievement and commendation medals and ribbons.
Pongo is survived by a daughter and his parents.
Killed along with Pongo was Capt. Moises A. Navas, a 34-year-old special operations officer from Germantown, Md.
“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,” Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer Col. John Lynch said in a statement.
“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 organization’s leaders in the future.”