RODRIGUEZ LIVE FIRE COMPLEX, Republic of Korea --
Of all the weapons in the Marine Corps arsenal, Sgt. Andrew T. Maddox found just the right one at a bookstore.
Maddox, a scout sniper with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, received a Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony here March 4.
While deployed with 3/7 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007, Maddox, 21, Cleburne, Texas, learned to speak Arabic from some books he had bought and regular conversation with local Iraqis. He spent the last five months of his deployment as an interpreter.
"In the current counter-insurgency fight in Ramadi," reads the summary of award submission, "Sgt. Maddox determined that to win, the people must be the focus of effort. Through his unique leadership, language skills and cultural understanding, Sgt. Maddox directly influenced the public to support and favor coalition forces. His actions led the battle for the people's hearts and minds."
After becoming a "pivotal" actor in increasing stability within the city, "Maddox coordinated and executed 30 instrumental projects totaling over 300,000 dollars."
Those projects ranged from night raids to public aid. Maddox said it all had to do with putting an American face on things.
He said that making an effort to learn the Arabic language while wearing the Marine uniform spoke volumes to the people.
"All up until this time, you had native speakers as translators," said Maddox. But a Marine who can hold a conversation, he said, isn't as much an enemy as a human being underneath all that gear.
"You have these two different cultures, West and East, and it's about a human connection, it's about making friends," said Maddox.
The connection showed.
Maddox' crew was often invited to regular "kabob" dinners with many Ramadi locals. They even established an unofficial sub-counsel meeting, which brought all forms of Iraqi leaders together with Marines to simply talk.
"Not only could he communicate with Iraqis," said Capt. Douglas R. Cullins, company commander, Weapons Company, 3/7, "but he could communicate from the perspective of a Marine."
"He was my left-hand man," said Cullins, 31, San Diego. Despite all the weapons Cullins' company brought to Iraq, their sharpest wore a flak jacket and Kevlar and spoke Arabic.
"It's one of the biggest weapons in our arsenal," concluded Maddox. "'A kind word turns away wrath.'"
It turns out the Corps' best weapon wasn't in the bookstore. It was in the Marine's mind.