Gunnery Sergeant Diego Pongo, a Marine Raider, was killed in action in Iraq on March 8, 2020 while conducting combat operations against the Islamic State.
Another Marine Raider – Captain Moises Navas – was also killed. Four other U.S. service members were wounded. Captain Navas was also assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.
Pongo died in an operation that took place in the mountains of northern Iraq more than 35 miles south of Erbil. The target was a terrorist training camp located in a tunnel and cave complex in the Qara Chockh mountains. Four other U.S. service members were wounded. The raid on the terrorist base was described as a partnered company-sized operation by ISOF.
Gunnery Sergeant Pongo was a critical skills operator with MARSOC. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2004 and spent his initial years as a rifleman, deploying once with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit before completing the Scout Sniper Basic Course in 2008. He then deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment as a Sniper Team Leader. Gunnery Sgt. Pongo was then selected to attend the grueling 9-month Individual Training Course to become a Critical Skills Operator and earned the coveted Marine Special Operator Insignia in December 2011. During his 8 years as a Marine Raider, Gunnery Sgt. Pongo completed deployments to both 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.
In addition to his Bronze Star, Gunnery Sgt. Pongo’s personal decorations also include: 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.
He is survived by his daughter and mother.
The Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was created as a major command within the Corps and a co-equal component of United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The majority of the MARSOC units are based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The subunits of MARSOC include the Marine Raider Regiment, the Marine Raider Support Group, and the Marine Raider Training Center. The Marine Raider Regiment has a headquarters company and three Marine Raider Battalions. Two Marine Raider Battalions are located at Camp Lejeune and one at Camp Pendleton.
Two Marine Raiders KIA in Northern Iraq on March 8, 2020, SOF News, March 9, 2020.
Photo: Provided by Department of Defense.