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Retirement Of General James Mattis

Sen. John McCain

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Mr. President, today I honor an exceptional warrior and scholar. After a lifetime of service to our Nation, Gen. James N. Mattis is retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps and his current position as Commander of the United States Central Command. On this occasion I believe it is fitting to recognize General Mattis' 41 years of uniformed service to our Nation.

The general was commissioned a second lieutenant on January 1, 1972. He has served in every major combat operation of his era and led at every level from platoon to theater command. Upon promotion to brigadier general, he commanded first the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and then Task Force 58, during Operation Enduring Freedom in southern Afghanistan. As a major general, he commanded the 1st Marine Division during the initial attack and subsequent stability operations in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. General Mattis led marines into Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003--the defining conflicts of our age.

General Mattis is well known for his dedication and intellect. When selected to command the U.S. Central Command, then Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, called him ``one of the military's most innovative and iconoclastic thinkers.'' He has proved to be that and more. General Mattis is known to carry books on philosophy with him on every combat mission. He is said to have a personal library of over 6,000 books that he takes with him to every new command. Even more important than his intellect and bravery, is his ability to connect with and lead our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. In March 2003, he wrote a letter to all forces under his command, telling them to ``engage your brain before you engage your weapon.'' I have had the pleasure of meeting those under his command and am always impressed by the respect and favor he carries amongst them.

I most respect General Mattis' willingness to speak truth to power. His candor is a facet of a professionalism that has been exacted over a lifetime and exercised during a most impressive military career. Thoughtful leaders throughout government will feel his absence. I join many past and present members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in my gratitude to General Mattis for his outstanding leadership and his unwavering support of servicemembers. General James Mattis' service has evinced the meaning of the words ``Semper Fidelis.'' I wish him ``fair winds and following seas.''