James N. Mattis (born September 8, 1950) is a retired United States Marine Corps general who last served as the 11th commander of United States Central Command. Having replaced David Petraeus on August 11, 2010, he previously commanded United States Joint Forces Commandfrom November 9, 2007 to August 2010 and served concurrently asNATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation from November 9, 2007 to September 8, 2009. Prior to that, he commanded I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Forces Central Command, and 1st Marine Division during the Iraq War. General Mattis retired on May 22, 2013 after more than 41 years of service.
Early life and education
Mattis was born in Pullman, Washington on September 8, 1950. He graduated from Columbia High School, Richland, Washington, in 1968, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1969. He later earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Central Washington University  and was commissioned a second lieutenant through ROTCon January 1, 1972.
As a lieutenant, Mattis served as a rifle and weapons platoon commander in the 3rd Marine Division. As a captain, he commanded a rifle company and a weapons company in the 1st Marine Regiment, then Recruiting Station Portland, Oregon, as a major.
Persian Gulf War
Upon promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Mattis commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, which was one of Task Force Ripper’s assault battalions during the Persian Gulf War.
War in Afghanistan
As a colonel, Mattis commanded 7th Marine Regiment, then 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Task Force 58 during the War in Afghanistan in the southern part of the country. Later being promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, he was the commander of TF-58, and became the first U.S. Marine officer to ever command a Naval Task Force in combat.
Letter written by Mattis on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, addressed to members of the 1st Marine Division.
As a major general, Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and subsequent stability operations during the Iraq War. Mattis played a key role in the April 2004 battle of Fallujah, Operation Vigilant Resolve, by negotiating with the insurgent command inside of the city, as well as playing an important part in planning the subsequent Operation Phantom Fury in November.
Following a U.S. Department of Defense survey that showed only 55% of American soldiers and 40% of U.S. Marines would report a colleague for abusing civilians, Mattis told U.S. Marines in May 2007, that, “Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it’s a victory for al-Qaeda and other insurgents.” Reflecting an understanding of the need for restraint in war as key to defeating an insurgency, he added that, “Every time you wave at an Iraqi civilian, al-Qaeda rolls over in its grave.”
Mattis popularized the 1st marine division’s motto, “no better friend, no worse enemy” (A paraphrase of the famous self-made epitaph for the Roman dictator Sulla), in his open letter to all men within the division for their return to Iraq. This phrase later became widely publicized during the investigation into the conduct of Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, a platoon commander serving under General Mattis.
Combat Development Command
After being promoted to lieutenant general, Mattis took command of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. On February 1, 2005, speaking ad libitum at a forum in San Diego, he said “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.” Mattis’s remarks sparked controversy and General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement suggesting that Mattis should have chosen his words more carefully, but would not be disciplined.
U.S. Joint Forces Command
The Pentagon announced on May 31, 2006 that Lieutenant General Mattis was chosen to take command of I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. On 11 September 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that President George W. Bush had nominated Mattis for appointment to the rank of general to command U.S. Joint Forces Commandin Norfolk, Virginia. NATO agreed to appoint Mattis as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. On 28 September 2007, the United States Senate confirmed Mattis’s nomination, and he relinquished command of I MEF on 5 November 2007 to Lieutenant GeneralSamuel Helland. Mattis was promoted to four-star general and took control of JFCOM/SACT on 9 November 2007. He transferred the job of SACT to French General Stéphane Abrial on 9 September 2009, but continued in command of JFCOM.
U.S. Central Command
In early 2010, Mattis was reported to be on the list of U.S. Marine generals being considered for selection to replace James T. Conwayas the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. In July, he was recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for nomination to replace David Petraeus as commander of United States Central Command, and formally nominated by President Barack Obama on July 21. His confirmation by the Senate Armed Services Committee on August 5 marks the first time that Marines have held billets as commander and deputy commander of a Unified Combatant Command. He took command at a ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base on August 11.
Mattis has stepped down as head of Central Command, which oversaw wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was responsible for a region that includes Syria, Iran, Yemen.
Mattis is a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and theNational War College. Mattis is also noted for his intellectualism and interest in military history, with a personal library that once included over 7,000 volumes, and a penchant for publishing required reading lists for Marines under his command.
Awards and decorations
Mattis holds four expert rifle badges and two expert pistol badges.
Medals and ribbons
General Mattis also has received the Polish Army Medal.
In popular culture
Gen. James Mattis’ Words to Live By
There is lots of press on the early retirement of Gen. James Mattis currently CENTCOM Commander.
For those who have never met Gen Jim Mattis, USMC, Commander Central Command, he is a gentleman, scholar and a warrior. One of our best and brightest.
I first met LtCol Jim Mattis at an exercise at Joint Task Force- Bravo, in Honduras, in the mid 1980s.
LtCol Mattis and I were supposed to be with a number of other I Marine Expeditionary Force Marines playing the I MEF units during the exercise – an invasion of Honduras by Nicaragua. I represent 1st Force Service Support Group and LtCol Jim was one of the reps for 1st Marine Division. Unfortunately y, the I MEF general staff guys had not showed up and the exercise director came to all of us and asked if we would fill the role as I MEF Hq. The senior Marine present said he had no authority to do that but Jim Mattis and I said we would play the I MEF roles. We did this for the week and enjoyed the exercise.
I got to know this outstanding Marine leader well.
After I retired I kept in touch with Jim but once he became the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, I knew he was going to be busy and stopped our e-mail exchanges.
The San Diego, CA, UTSanDiego.com, January 19, 2013, has an article by Gretel C. Kovach: “Just Don’t Call Him Mad Dog: Influential Marine general prepares to retire after four decades in uniform.”
The writer was referring to a number of sobriquets the general has collected over the years. My favorite is “Warrior Monk.” Jim has never been married.
The extensive and detailed article is well worth looking up on Google and reading in total.
Kovach had collected a number of Gen. Mattis’ quotes and below are my favorite:
Be no better friend, no worse enemy.
It’s fun to shoot some people.
The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.
Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.
The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event.
Fight with a happy heart.
If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don¹t take the
shot. Don¹t create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act.
It¹s very hard to live with yourself if you don¹t stick with your moral
If you have high expectations, if you can win the affection of your young
sailors or Marines, they will win all the battles for you.
Just get on with it, put in the miles and the weight-training and the study.
Some platoons are worth as much as a company, because of the social energy
of their leaders.
There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It¹s really great.
I don¹t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot
even spell the word.
I don¹t believe in demonizing the enemy. I don¹t patronize them either.
There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot
them. I don¹t think you do. It¹s just business.
I spent 30 years getting ready for that decision that took 30 seconds.
I come in peace. I didn¹t bring artillery. But I¹m pleading with you, with
tears in my eyes: If you f* with me, I¹ll kill you all.
He is being asked to retire a year early. No reason has been given.
Enjoy your retirement General – you have well earned it.