The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Marine from Maryland dies while battling Islamic State militants

Capt. Moises A. Navas, left, and Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo.
Capt. Moises A. Navas, left, and Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo. (U.S. Marines)
Placeholder while article actions load

A Maryland man was one of two members of a Marine Special Operations team killed in Iraq while fighting Islamic State militants, officials said Tuesday.

Capt. Moises A. Navas, a Special Operations officer from Germantown, and Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, a critical skills operator from Simi Valley, Calif., were killed Sunday while accompanying Iraqi security forces during a mission to eliminate an Islamic State stronghold in a mountainous area of north-central Iraq, military officials said in a statement. Both men were 34.

Two Americans killed in Iraq in operation targeting ISIS mountain hideout

Navas, known as “Mo,” was born in Panama and grew up in Maryland, according to the Defense Department. He joined the Marine Corps in 2004 and was assigned for the past four years to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

A scout sniper, martial arts instructor and combat diver, Navas was recently selected for promotion to major, the statement said. His commendations include a Purple Heart. He is survived by his wife, a daughter, three sons, his parents and a brother.

Pongo also enlisted in 2004, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan, and was awarded a Purple Heart, among other commendations. He is survived by his daughter and parents.

In a statement, Col. John Lynch, Marine Raider Regiment commanding officer, said “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,” the statement said. “They were intelligent, courageous, and loyal.”

Local newsletters: Local headlines (8 a.m.) | Afternoon Buzz (4 p.m.)

Like PostLocal on Facebook | Follow @postlocal on Twitter | Latest local news