Gen. James Mattis’ Words to Live By

by H. Thomas Hayden on January 21, 2013

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,, 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.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Allen Miller January 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Ive been a “fan” of the General and his “saying” for years and use them for business. There are many of us here in the us that appreciate your service wisdom, and most of all balls. You exemplify pride sir, and the best of us. I don’t think the General will be living quietly mowing his lawn, men of greatness continue great deeds regardless of environment.
thank you, sir. Live well.

Kevin welch January 25, 2013 at 11:49 am

I have done 3 tours in Iraq as a infantryman if you e mail me back I will give you the reasons why allowing women in combat arms would be a disaster many of my reasons will be very politically incorrect but true.

H. Thomas Hayden January 27, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Well said.
Do not think he will become a face for industry.
He may lecture and do a university.
He will do well at what ever he does.
S/f, Tom hayden

H. Thomas Hayden January 27, 2013 at 5:40 pm

We will have to see how they fare in training programs. My thinking is not many can handle the physical challenges.
S/f, Tom Hayden

H. Thomas Hayden March 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Have no doubt about it.
S/f, Tom hayden

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