March 10 (UPI) — The Department of Defense has released the names of two U.S. Marines killed in Iraq last weekend.
According to a DoD announcement released Tuesday, Gunner Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, 34, of Simi Valley, Calif., and Capt. Moises A. Navas, 34, of Germantown, Md., died Sunday on a mission with Iraqi forces in the Makhmur Mountains south of Erbil.
Officials have released few details on the mission that killed the two men, but say they were working to eliminate an ISIS stronghold in north central Iraq. The Pentagon is investigating the incident that caused their deaths.
Pongo is survived by a daughter and his parents, and Navas is survived by his wife, daughter, three sons, parents, and brother, according to Marine Forces Special Operations Command.
“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,” said Marine Raider Regiment Commanding Officer Col. John Lynch. “Both men epitomize what it means to be a Marine Raider.”
“They were intelligent, courageous, and loyal,” Lynch added. “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. They were also family men, adoring husbands and fathers.”
Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said the effort to recover the dead became a brutal fight.
“The forces trekked through mountainous terrain and eliminated four hostile ISIS fighters who were barricaded in the caves. The recovery took approximately six hours,” said Col. Myles B. Caggins III, a spokesman for the OIR coalition.
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq — 5,200 — is down from over 170,000 in 2007. In January, Iraq’s parliament voted in a non-binding resolution to demand that all foreign forces withdraw from the country.