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Marine’s Arabic skills benefit operation

1 Aug 2008 | Cpl. Ryan Tomlinson

A Marine started several years ago to learn Arabic, a language spoken throughout the Middle East. Recognizing the value of the talent, he decided to put it to use helping his country.

Lance Cpl. Matthew P. Ross, a scout team leader with Delta Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, has studied and practiced speaking, writing and reading the Arabic language for more than eight years.

Delta Co. is a reserve light-armored infantry element based out of Quantico, Va. Currently, the unit is mobilized for deployment to Iraq and attached to 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, RCT-5.

“A language could tell you so much about the country, its culture and the people in it,” said Ross, 21. “Making that connection with the language provides my unit with a large advantage in the operation.”

Born and raised in Fairfax, Va., a suburb outside of Washington, D.C, Ross spent most of his days either spending time with friends or working at a Arabic kabob restaurant to make some money while attending high school. It was there that he was inspired to learn the language and became familiar with it.

“I worked in that restaurant for four years and I worked with all Arabic people and mainly Arabic customers,” said Ross. “Because of all of the opportunities, I had a lot of practice with the language.”

After graduating high school, Ross attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., to study the language more. While attending college he sought out the military as an option to contribute his skills.

“I wanted to do something different other than graduating high school and going to college,” he said. “I wanted to use my ability by experiencing the military myself, so I joined the Marine Corps.”

Now deployed with Delta Co., Ross’s skills are being used on a daily basis in activities ranging from conversing with the locals to coordinating with the city council of Akashat, Iraq. He is a key member in the unit’s Company Level Intelligence Cell and is the unit’s Iraqi infrastructure building liaison. According to other service members and his leaders in the company, he is a vital entity of the mission.

“Ross is an extremely intelligent and people-savvy Marine, [and] people key off his attitude toward everything. His spirit is always the same no matter how bad the situation gets,” said Capt. Joseph C. Maher, 28, company commander of Delta Co. and a Omaha, Neb., native. “Our company wouldn’t be half as successful as we have been if he wasn’t here.”

“He works very hard everyday to ensure the company completes its mission,” said Cpl. Mike T. O’Herron, 26, a light-armored vehicle operator from Marshall, Va., with Delta Co. “The Iraqis have to remain extra careful on how they act and what they say when he is around because of his ability to read them.”

Ross can now be found studying Arabic to further master the language. He plans to study the Farsi language, the language if Iran, and physically condition himself with exercise to achieve his overall goal of becoming a government agent.

“I wanted to be here and establish myself fully with the locals and collect human intelligence for the company,” Ross said. “It’s been a great experience being able to use my skills to benefit this company.”


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