How An Oklahoma Native Hunted Down Saddam Hussein
OKLAHOMA CITY - The capture of Saddam Hussein was an event heard round the world. What we didn't hear, was the story behind the capture.
It began shortly after Oklahoma native Eric Maddox graduated from the University of Oklahoma. He said he heard the voice of God, telling him to become an Army Airborne Ranger. He'd never shot a gun, never jumped out of a plane and was terrified of heights.
"Every day of Ranger School, I was like, 'are you sure?' I barely passed," Maddox remembered.
Maddox's next decision was equally as improbable. He signed up to become an army interrogator.
Maddox said, "They told me, 'be an interrogator. That's the easiest one. It's eight weeks of training. You'll never have to do it. We don't have any prisoners.'"
Then came September 11, 2011 and the start of the war in Iraq. Within weeks, having never done a single interrogation, Maddox found himself in Tikrit, working with one of the most highly trained special forces units in the world and failing miserably.
"The really scary part was when I realized not only had I not done an interrogation," Maddox said, "But when I started doing them, they didn't work."
But circumstances had thrown the Army Staff Sergeant into what was considered the backwater of Tikrit, working solo and developing his own technique.
"It was the best thing that happened to me because there were no expectations," Maddox said. "I could figure out how to get the prisoners to talk without torturing them."
Maddox also discovered a natural ability to take tiny bits of information from hundreds of prisoners and piece them together into a mosaic that ever so slowly, revealed the insurgency's hidden battlefield.
"Once you have an idea of the battlefield, you understand how to hunt down individuals who can take you to the next step and the next step and the next step," Maddox said. "I went to the team leader and made a pitch, 'I know this sounds crazy, but I think I have a path that if we follow might possibly lead us to black list number one."
Rather than going after high profile targets, Maddox was following a web of bodyguards, chauffeurs and shopkeepers, slowly working his way up the chain of command. But his time in Iraq was drawing to a close. And when the raid finally came that netted his number one target, one of Saddam's bodyguards, Maddox had only two hours to convince him to give up the prize.
Maddox told the bodyguard, "When you change your mind, beat on your cell."
"As I'm driving to the airplane to leave the country, they told me, 'that prisoner. What did you do? He's going crazy, beating the heck out of his cell in there.'"
Maddox got the prisoner to sketch a map detailing Saddam's location, then he left the country, but forever became a part of this historic event.
"It took me several years to come to the conclusion I wasn't going to wake up from a dream," Maddox said.
Maddox lives in Houston now and still works for the Department of Defense. He wrote a book a couple of years ago but a movie studio immediately bought the rights. "Mission: Blacklist" is in pre-production now with Robert Pattinson from Twilight fame playing Maddox. It's expected in theaters in 2014.