Skip to comments.From the General: Letter from MajGen James Mattis to Military families
Posted on 04/13/2004 7:46:22 PM PDT by RaceBannon
This is a letter, reprinted with permission, from Major General James Mattis, the Commanding officer of the 1st MEF in Iraq.
The General and I served on the same ship off Iran in 1980 when I was a young Corporal and he was a young Captain. I was not one of his troops, but I still keep in touch with some men that were.
He is highly spoken of, and his record since 9/11 is exemplary.
Dear Xxxxxxx: Wanted to provide you some information in our attempts to Keep you and our ladies informed. The days fly by out here, and for all the improved living conditions compared to last year's deployment into Iraq, The tempo of our operations across our far-flung area is consistently high.
That said, if there is one message that I need to convey, it is the unrelenting high spirits of our Sailors, Soldiers and Marines. They are undeterred by the harshness of the fighting and the casualties amongst their comrades. They clearly convey a greater appreciation of their life and of the love that they share with their families, that does so much to sustain them as we move forward in this test of wills between us and the enemy.
The connection with home -- with their reasons for being here now engaged in this fight -- are seen in the pictures of you, their wives, children, siblings, parents and friends that they carry in their helmets, pockets, notebooks and Bibles.
Their faith remains strong and serves as the bulwark that it always is, and their humor is clearly intact as their smiles greet me on my rounds. While they dearly miss home, the already strong bonds with each other out here have grown even stronger, and together we will come through all this. Our operations have seen many successes, from 7th Marines' dispersed Units across the western desert and along the Euphrates River, to the provincial capital of Ramadi, and even into the contentious eastern zone where the elements of 1st Marines move against the enemy strengths in Fallouja and adjacent areas.
The casualties have been heartbreaking, yet nothing is weakening our Marines' resolve. Daily we grow stronger and the enemy grows weaker. In the complex environment in which we operate, the Marines' generosity of spirit, their guardianship of their buddies, and their steadfastness in the face of adversity are the things that will ultimately build our families, our communities and our Nation into even greater examples of all that is good. The character of these fine young warriors is something to behold as I get to see each day. Yet I recognize that you don't get to see this reassuring presence and the best I can do is to try to articulate their strengths with these few awkward words.
I hope that you hear from your loved ones through letters or maybe e-mail or perhaps an occasional phone call so you can know what I see every day. The enemy has surged recently, and the alarm in the newspapers and on TV That accompanies such activities must be very worrisome to you and to all our families. Rest assured that there is no pressure on us to act hastily or move faster in our operations than we believe is prudent -- no one is pushing us to do things that require us to sacrifice good judgment.
We Are methodical in our approach, first getting the best possible information, then setting up the best possible support for each operation, and only then prosecuting our mission, but with keen attention to any possible enemy surprise. Coupled with the prayers and support of you at home you who represent to us what really matters in this world -- we could not be in better company as we fight. Please take care of each other and know that our high spirits and Deepest prayers are with every one of you. Please give my best to all the ladies back there and tell them I cannot thank them enough for all that they have done for us. Sincerely, Jim
And if he or a subordinate posts, ask them what he remembers about me kick-boxing. :) I was just a newbie at it all, he thought it was kind of comical, any port in a storm for entertainment when you are in the Arabian Sea for 53 days without liberty!
1st Marine Division (REIN) Commanding General's Message to All Hands
For decades, Saddam Hussein has tortured, imprisoned, raped, and murdered the Iraqi people; invaded neighboring countries without provocation; and threatened the world with weapons of mass destruction. The time has come to end his reign of terror. On your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind.
When I give you the word, together we will cross the Line of Departure, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. Our fight is not with the Iraqi people, nor is it with members of the Iraqi army who choose to surrender. While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam's oppression.
Chemical attack, treachery, and use of the innocent as human shields can be expected, as can other unethical tactics. Take it all in stride. Be the hunter, not the hunted: never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down. Use good judgment and act in the best interests of our Nation.
You are part of the world's most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. Share your courage with each other as we enter the uncertain terrain north of the Line of Departure. Keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit.
For the mission's sake, our country's sake, and the sake of the men who carried the Division's colors in past battleswho fought for life and never lost their nervecarry out your mission and keep your honor clean. Demonstrate to the world there is "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy" than a U.S. Marine.
Major General J. N. Mattis, U.S. Marines
James N. Mattis
Commanding General, 1st Marine Division
Major General James N. Mattis is currently serving as the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division. He assumed his current assignment on 2 August 2002.
As a Lieutenant, he served as a rifle and weapons platoon commander in the 3d Marine Division. As a Captain, he commanded a rifle company and a weapons company in the 1st Marine Brigade. As a Major, he commanded RS Portland. As a Lieutenant Colonel, he commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, one of Task Force Ripper's assault battalions in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As a Colonel, he commanded 7th Marines (Reinforced). As a Brigadier General, he commanded 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and then Task Force 58, during operations in southern Afghanistan.
He is a graduate of the Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College.
(Biography Revised Oct 30, 2002)
source: USMC Web site
Just want to take this opportunity to tell him and all of our beloved troops how very appreciative my family is for the protection they are providing us, and for the sacrifices they are making on our behalf. My heart is so full of feelings that I don't have words to express. Just know that we love each of you and pray without ceasing for you and your families, General Mattis. God bless, guide, and protect you all. May good prevail, and freedom ring!
Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack and Command Sgt. Maj. Wolf Amacker carefully roll up the colors of the 82nd Airborne Division on Saturday as the soldiers gave way in western Iraq to the 1st Marine Division.
Kent Harris / S&S
Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, deputy commander of Joint Task Force-7, Maj. Gen. James Mattis and Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack stare at the colors Saturday during a transfer of authority ceremony in Ramadi, Iraq. Mattis, the commander of the 1st Marine Division, took control of western Iraq from Swannack, the Army's 82nd Airborne Division commander.
RAMADI, Iraq On March 20, 2003, the 1st Marine Division crossed the Kuwaiti border and rapidly made its way north alongside British allies into Iraq.
A year later, the heavily decorated unit from Camp Pendleton, Calif., took authority over one of the most contentious regions in the country. Marine Maj. Gen. James Mattis is now the top coalition commander in Multinational Division-West, taking over Saturday for Army Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.
For the Marines, who left the country in the fall only to return half a year later, Iraq is familiar territory. Almost two-thirds of the force served in the country last year.
Mattis said that experience is invaluable, especially for junior leaders. These young corporals and sergeants make the difference.
He said the region itself is different from what it was when his Marines left, and he gave credit for that to the 82nd, which ran MND-West for the last seven months.
Mattis said his Marines initially faced a repressive government regime we were trying to tear down. This time, were trying to build up.
Since Task Force All-American took over operations in Al Anbar province, 68 American servicemembers lost their lives and so did hundreds of Iraqis many of them serving in the fledgling security forces.
In his remarks during the transfer of authority ceremony, Swannack paid tribute to those who gave their lives as well as to the more than 500 servicemembers who were injured. He said their sacrifices helped make the region a better place for the Iraqi people.
We can be justifiably proud we have set the people of Iraq in this region on a new course, he said.
For his part, Mattis told the Iraqi dignitaries attending: I have confidence that we can work together for Iraqs future and for the good of your children.
After the ceremony, he said that those who resort to violence wont be a part of that future.
Those who want to fight ... theyll regret it, Mattis said. Well handle them roughly.
Both commanders said the two divisions have plenty in common.
Swannack said that airborne soldiers often jump into a hostile area, while the Marines take boats. But once in theater, were both here doing infantry tasks.
Both divisions have been heavily deployed since Sept. 11, 2001. While the Marines begin their second stints in Iraq, no other unit in the military has been as busy as the 82nd, with continuous missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In fact, when the divisions last brigade heads back to the States in early April, Swannack said it will mark the first time in his command that hes had all his soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C., at the same time.
With the Armys current missions, he doesnt expect that to last for long.
Much of the division needs to regain jump status, and artillery units need to retrain as well, he said. Both of those operations could take months.
Still, he expects to have a brigades worth of troops ready to deploy anywhere by May 7.
Mattis said his Marines took advantage of their brief time back in the States to train as well. Units went through weeks of courses on language and culture to try to help them better understand the Iraqi people.
He said Marines would interact with local residents constantly and learn more about them along the way. Knowing their mission is making a difference for those people will give his troops a sense of purpose that keeps morale high.
The Marines actually will have more troops in the region than the 82nd had in their task force, with an increase to around 22,000 from about 18,000. Mattis said some of the Marines who just arrived in Iraq would rotate out in seven months. The Pentagon has yet to announce a schedule following the current rotation, which is still taking place.
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Caption: Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, commanding general of 1st Marine Division, and Sgt. Maj. Wayne R. Bell, the division sergeant major, uncase the "Blue Diamond's" colors during a relief in place ceremony here March 20. The Camp Pendleton, California-based unit relieved the Army's 82nd Airborne Division of its duties in this war-torn country. In all, nearly 20,000 Marines will conduct security and stabilization operations in the region to turn over full power of Iraq to its citizens.
(Official USMC photo by Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald) Photo by: Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald
A high & low resolution version of this photo is attached below