To our delight, we recently had the opportunity to listen to General James Mattis, one of the four four-star generals currently serving in the US Marine Corps. He is from the Pacific Northwest and still calls it part of America where his memories are.
General Mattis commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and then Task force 58 during Operation Enduring Freedom. He commanded the 1st Marine Division during the initial attack and stability operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He recently served as the commander of the US Marine Forces Central Command. Currently, he is Commander, US Joint Forces Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. Who better to listen to about Iraq and Afghanistan?
This is the second time we have had the opportunity to hear General Mattis. He speaks frankly and honestly about the good and the bad in the situations in the War on Terror. He opens the floor to questions and honestly answers each of them.
"We now have a victory coming in Iraq. We're still a ways away, but victory is coming." He continued about Afghanistan and discussed the transfer of resources from Iraq as it stabilizes to Afghanistan. He discussed the difficulty with the various terms of participation with the NATO countries. He also spoke about the difficulties of irregular warfare.
General Mattis also tells wonderful stories of the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors in the war zones. While we are "the good guys, not the perfect guys", he noted the trusting relationships that our troops are establishing, which is allowing success and victory.
He told the story of a young man who daily stopped traffic for an Iraqi woman to cross the street. She never acknowledged him, yet daily came to his corner to cross the street. He always smiled at her and wished her well. After many weeks of this, she approached him from a different direction, made eye contact with him, turned her head and stared at a house, repeating the gesture several times, and then passed by him. A raid on the house shut down a bomb making operation and removed a large weapons cache from the streets.
When he arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, he was approached by locals interested in opening a school for girls, something that city had not seen in five years. Shortly after military commanders assured them the girls' schools would be defended, girls in school uniforms were suddenly everywhere, Mattis said, 'like somebody added water to dehydrated girls' schools.''These girls came walking down the street, and they walked right by U.S. Navy Seals and Marines with automatic weapons standing there on the street corners,' Mattis said. 'And they knew they could trust these foreign soldiers with all these grenades hanging off them and everything else. They knew they could trust them.'
He also shared stories of hospitals and schools and market places opening. He talked about people wanting to live their lives and to care for their families. He gives the news the press never does. He also does not downplay the fragile nature of the peace that is being found, nor the ferocity of the enemy.
Additionally, General Mattis came to meet with the Marine JROTC students in the new program here. There are 87 students enrolled in the start up year and General Mattis assisted in getting the unit granted. What a start for a young person to meet a four-star general!
Thank you General Mattis for an informative and inspiring evening.
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The U.S. military will be engaged in irregular warfare operations for some time to come, a senior U.S. military officer said on June 19.
"Irregular warfare, from my perspective, is the key problem that we face today," Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, told attendees at the 2008 Joint Warfighting Conference.
The U.S. military is now locked in battle with transnational terrorists like al-Qaida, but it also must be prepared to fight conventional conflicts, Mattis said.
Meanwhile, American sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines will be fighting terrorists during the next decade or so, Mattis predicted.
"The enemy won't fight us conventionally," Mattis pointed out, noting the terrorists realize they're outmatched on traditional battlefields.
He cited his belief that technology, although welcome and helpful, isn't a panacea for all of the unknowns inherent in warfighting, where the human dimension of conflict reigns supreme.
Terrorists embrace irregular warfare as a countermeasure to U.S. military supremacy, Mattis explained, noting they are intelligent, persistent and patient.
"This enemy is not going away any time soon," the general observed.
Anyone who believes the terrorists can be reasoned with are wrong, Mattis said, noting their worldview is totally at odds with that of civilized societies.
The United States, the Soviet Union and China did not want to use their nuclear weapons during the Cold War, Mattis said. However, he said, it'd be different if al Qaida terrorists acquired nuclear or chemical weapons. "I firmly believe that if they got chemical or nuclear weapons they would use them," he emphasized.
To achieve victory over terrorism the U.S. military must become intellectually focused on understanding the enemy and how he operates, Mattis said. Winning this battle depends on U.S. servicemembers being adaptive and capable of improvisation, he added.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and his troops have severely disrupted al-Qaida in Iraq operations by adapting counterinsurgency doctrine to separate terrorists from the Iraqi populace, Mattis said.
The U.S. military does a good job of destroying or finishing the enemy once he has been "fixed," or cornered, Mattis said. However, he said, more work needs to be done in areas related to finding the foe.
Mattis told military contractors in the audience that the U.S. military needs to devise a way to blow up improvised explosive devices while they're still in terrorists' hands.
"We have to take the IED and turn it against the enemy by pre-detonation," Mattis said.