Central Command released a statement saying that two U.S. service members were killed in action in Iraq on Sunday, March 8, 2020.
“Two U.S. service members were killed by enemy forces while advising and accompanying Iraqi Security Forces during a mission to eliminate an ISIS terrorist stronghold in a mountainous area of north central Iraq.”
Both Marines were assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They were identified as:
Gunnery Sergeant Diego D. Pongo, age 34, of Simi Valley, California
Captain Moises A. Navas, age 34, of Germantown, Maryland
Some reports say that the recovery effort of the wounded and deceased took over six hours and involved a unit from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). The operation took place in the mountains more than 35 miles south of Erbil. The raid on the terrorist base was described as a partnered company-sized operation by ISOF.
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. News reports say that the U.S. conducted airstrikes with F-15 fighter jets, drones, and Apache attack helicopters. It is estimated that between 20 to 25 ISIS fighters died in the engagement.
The last death in Iraq due to combat action was a Marine Raider – killed on August 10, 2019. Gunnery Sergeant Scott Koppenhafer died after being engaged by enemy small arms fire while advising and accompanying Iraqi security forces on a planned operation in Ninewah province. Koppenhafer was a member of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).
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 Lejuene and one at Camp Pendleton.
Over 5,000 U.S. service members are in Iraq to assist the Iraqi Security Forces in the counter ISIS fight. U.S. special operations units are actively involved in partner operations with Iraqi SOF forces in advise and accompany operations.
DOD Identifies Marine Casualties, DOD, March 10, 2020.