PASSAIC COUNTY, N.J. -- A veteran state trooper from Essex County and an army captain from South Jersey were killed in separate attacks in Iraq this week, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Detective Sgt. Dwayne M. Kelley, 48, a 20-year state police veteran serving with the Army Reserves, was among nine people - and one of three Americans - killed in a bomb attack in an office building in Sadr City on Tuesday.
Capt. Gregory T. Dalessio, 30, of Cherry Hill, died Monday in Baghdad from wounds he suffered in a gunbattle in Salman Pak, Iraq. Dalessio was assigned to the 2nd Batallion, 6th Infantry Regiment, based at Baumholder, Germany.
Kelly, of South Orange, was a major with the civil affairs unit of the Army Reserves.
He was a member of the counterterrorism bureau and was working to restore local government in Sadr City, a former Shiite militia stronghold, officials said.
"This was his third deployment to Iraq," said Capt. Al Della Fave, a state police spokesman. "He was there to help reconstruct the government and help build the communities."
News of Kelley's and Dalessio's deaths came the same day that members of a New Jersey National Guard Unit left the Teaneck Armory for Fort Bliss, Texas, where they will begin two months of desert training before leaving for Iraq in September.
Kelley is survived by a wife and two daughters. Relatives gathered at Kelley's South Orange home on Wednesday afternoon. A state trooper posted at the apartment complex said family members did not want to comment.
Kelley, who became a trooper in 1988, served on the state police terrorism task force, Della Fave said. Kelley began his work overseas in November, the captain said.
Della Fave said Kelley was a "tremendous tool" in Iraq, most notably because he spoke Arabic.
A rabid basketball fan, Kelley often joked that he could have played for the New York Knicks, said neighbor Shan Atkinson, 62, who had known him the past four years.
Kelley's grandparents were full-blooded Cherokee, Atkinson said, and she often made him traditional American Indian food. He also liked Arabic food, she said, noting that she'd made grape leaves for Kelley the last time she saw him.
Atkinson said that whenever she ran into Kelley in the laundry room of the complex, he would playfully ask, "What did you cook for me today?"
"He was very nice, very friendly, always smiling," she said.
Kelley received a valor award for his work in Guantanamo Bay assisting the FBI terrorism task force by interviewing detainees, Della Fave said. Kelley was also commended for his work in the state police's auto theft unit.
Staff Writer William Lamb contributed to this article.