10 Things to Know About New DoD Secretary Jim Mattis

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis has officially been confirmed as the new Secretary of Defense.

New Defense Secretary James Mattis hosts his first "Top 4" roundtable after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Also in attendance were Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work; U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and U.S. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, Vice CJCS. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

New Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hosts his first “Top 4” roundtable after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Also in attendance were Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work; U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and U.S. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, Vice CJCS. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

While many of you who served (and still serve) in the Marine Corps know his achievements well, many other service members and DoD civilians might not know that much about the veteran commander. So to help introduce him to the community he’ll be serving, here are a few key facts to know:

Gen. Mattis grew up in southeast Washington state with military-minded parents: His mother worked with U.S. Army intelligence in South Africa, while his father was a merchant mariner. Mattis went to Central Washington University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. U.S. Army photo by Monica King

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. U.S. Army photo by Monica King

Mattis was commissioned as a Marine Corps second lieutenant through ROTC in 1972. He served in the Marine Corps for 41 years, commanding at all levels and during three major operations, including:

  • As a lieutenant colonel in the 1990s, Mattis commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (also known as assault battalion Task Force Ripper) as they breached the Iraqi minefields during Operation Desert Storm.
  • Mattis was a brigadier general during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where he commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade in the fight against the Taliban. He also commanded Task Force 58, which executed the farthest-ranging amphibious assault in Marine Corps/Navy history, which blazed a path for more U.S. forces, cut off fleeing al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, and aided in the capture of Kandahar.
  • As a major general, Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division during the initial attack and subsequent stability operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In 2006, then-Lt. Gen. Mattis worked closely with Army Gen. David Petraeus to produce a revamped “Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual,” which has become one of the most complete guidance manuals for dealing with counterinsurgencies.

From 2007-2009, Mattis served as NATO’s Allied Commander Transformation, one of two of the organization’s strategic commanders. He also led U.S. Joint Forces Command, which was dissolved as a unified combatant command in 2011.

From 2010-2013, Mattis replaced Petraeus as commander of U.S. Central Command, the geographic combatant command responsible for DoD operations in the Middle East.

Following his retirement in June 2013, Mattis served as the Davies Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, specializing in the study of leadership, national security, strategy, innovation and the effective use of military force. In 2016, he co-edited the book “Warriors & Citizens: American Views of Our Military.”

Mattis is nicknamed “the Warrior Monk,” due to his intense love and study of military history, leadership and the art of war.

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