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Suicide bomber kills 3 Hawaii Marines

Battalion commander among suicide bomber's victims

The commanding officer of a Hawai'i-based battalion of more than 1,000 Marines and sailors died Thursday in Iraq in an attack that also killed two other Kane'ohe Marines, the military said yesterday.

http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080628/NEWS08/806280336

Saturday, June 28, 2008

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer

Lt. Col. Max A. Galeai, 42, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines at Kane'ohe's Marine Corps Base Hawai'i, is believed to have been killed in the town of Karmah in Anbar province, about 30 miles west of Baghdad, in a suicide bomb attack.

Also killed in the attack were Capt. Phil Dykeman, 38, of New York, the leader of the battalion's Fox Company, and 23-year-old Cpl. Marcus W. Preudhomme, of North Miami Beach, Fla.

A member of an extremist cell believed to be behind the suicide attack has been arrested, the U.S. military said yesterday. U.S. spokesmen said it was unclear if the suspect, who was not identified, was directly involved in planning Thursday's attack, according to a report by The Associated Press.

A suicide bomber reportedly dressed in a police uniform detonated an explosive belt during a meeting of tribal sheiks opposed to al-Qaida in Iraq. In addition to the three Marines, two Iraqi interpreters, the local mayor and several key tribal figures were killed.

Kane'ohe Marine Corps Base officials would only confirm that the three were killed in Anbar.

The bombing occurred just two days before U.S. officials planned to formally hand over security responsibility for Anbar to the Iraqis, marking a major milestone in the transformation of a province that had been the most violent in Iraq.

The handover was postponed yesterday — but due to weather, not the attack, officials said. Weather forecasts called for high winds and sandstorms, which would ground aircraft and make it impossible for dignitaries to attend, officials said.

Anbar, which extends from the western outskirts of Baghdad to the borders of Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, will be the 10th of Iraq's 18 provinces to return to Iraqi security control. The other nine provinces are dominated by Shiites or Kurds.

Galeai and the other two Marines are the first fatalities of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines in this deployment, which started in February. The battalion is set to return in August.

Since the war started, 84 Hawai'i-based Marines and sailors have died in Iraq.

A Leader, caring buddy

Friends yesterday remembered Galeai, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, as a dedicated family man, a natural leader and a caring buddy who would never burden others with his problems. Just last week, in the midst of his deployment in Iraq, he sent e-mails to friends with jokes about the hot weather and friendly queries about how they were doing.

"I'm trying to cope with the fact that he's no longer with us," said Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Taumaoe Gaoteote, of California, a longtime friend.

"I didn't know how to react when I heard. I never thought it would actually happen to him."

In a newsletter for families of Kane'ohe-based Marines, Galeai wrote in February that during the deployment, battalion members would be "working with Iraqi police, Iraqi army and other(s) ... as we help the Iraqi people establish the conditions necessary for them to assume responsibility for their own security and local governance."

One of Galeai's friends, Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Paul Moniz, of New York, said he heard from Galeai about a week ago in an e-mail. Galeai didn't talk much about what he was doing in Iraq, but made sure to ask Moniz about how he was holding up.

"He was a friend, mentor, bigger than life, extremely bright, just one of those guys," Moniz said.

Moniz, who used to work under Galeai, said the officer always "sunk his teeth into his work" and expected a lot from people, but also praised them when they delivered. "He was definitely an inspirational guy. He was caring, compassionate."

Master Sgt. Brett W. Beard, of California, also used to work under Galeai and quickly befriended him.

"He just made it super easy to go out there to work day after day," Galeai said. "His first love was always leading Marines."

Purple heart recipients

This was Galeai's second deployment to Iraq.

Galeai graduated from Oregon State University in 1988, and joined the Marines out of college.

Before coming to the Islands in 2007, he served in Virginia, California, Okinawa and elsewhere. His service awards include two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart and five Meritorious Service Medals.

Gaoteote said Galeai is survived by his wife, Evelyn, and four children.

Dykeman, the leader of Fox Company, joined the Marines in June 1991 and came to Hawai'i in May 2007. He has been awarded a host of medals, including the Purple Heart.

Preudhomme joined the Marines in 2005, and was sent to Hawai'i the same year.

His awards include the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon, the Marines said.