5 Badass Quotes From Marine General James Mattis

Leadership

Marines love Gen. James Mattis, and with good reason. He’s a Marine’s Marine, which means he always speaks his mind.


A former enlisted Marine who entered the Corps in 1969, Mattis received his commission as an infantry officer in 1972. He served in the Persian Gulf War, where he commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. Mattis led Task Force 58 into southern Afghanistan at the onset of the war. In Iraq, he commanded troops during the first and second Battles of Fallujah, and alongside now-retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, oversaw the development of the Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency doctrine that would come to define and shape both wars.

Related: 5 Badass Schwarzkopf Quotes In Honor Of The 25th Gulf War Anniversary »

In 2013 Mattis left his post as commanding general of United States Central Command and retired from the Marine Corps after 44 years of service.

Widely admired for his keen intellect and fairness — Mattis has been referred to as the “Warrior Monk” — his frankness has endeared him to post-9/11 Marines and veterans, with whom he holds an almost legendary cult-status. Many modern military veterans, like this author, can recall seeing his quotes — often referred to as“Mattis-isms” — on the walls at MOS school, in the hallways of headquarters buildings, or piling up in Facebook newsfeeds as memes.

Here are Task & Purpose’s five favorite quotes from one of the Corps’ most respected living legends.

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."

Taken from a speech Mattis gave to his Marines when they arrived in Iraq in 2003, these are words to live by in an asymmetrical battlespace, where enemy combatants attack without warning before blending back in with the local populace.

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, talks to Marines from Marine Wing Support Group 27, May 6, 2007.U.S. Marine Corps photo

"I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all."

After the initial invasion of Iraq, Mattis met with Iraqi military officers in 2003 and delivered these cautionary words — his own take on “big stick policy.”

“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.”

While speaking to Marines at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq, Mattis encouraged them in his typical fashion to stay sharp and carry on their mission. The quote first appeared in print in Thomas E. Ricks’ book “Fiasco: American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005.”

"Marines don't know how to spell the word defeat."

Though the origin of this particular adage is unclear, it’s probably one of the most popular Mattis-isms out there. It has also lent credence to the long-standing joke that Marines are too dumb to spell defeat. We’re not. The word just isn’t in our vocabulary.

"You are part of the world's most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon."

Mattis wrote this letter and had it delivered to each of his Marines on March 19, 2003, one day before the initial invasion of Iraq. In addition to providing words of encouragement, Mattis implored his men to remember who they are, where they come from, and the branch they belong to.

Ryan Kules

Editor's note: A combat wounded veteran, Ryan served in the U.S. Army as an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 13th Armor Regiment. While deployed to Iraq in 2005, his vehicle was hit with an improvised explosive device buried in the road. He works as the Wounded Warrior Project's national Combat Stress Recovery Program director.

On Nov. 29, 2005, my life changed forever. I was a 24-year-old U.S. Army armor captain deployed to Taji, Iraq, when my vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. On that day, I lost two of my soldiers, Sgts. Jerry Mills and Donald Hasse, and I lost my right arm and left leg.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

CAMP PENDLETON — Susan and Michael McDowell attended a memorial in June for their son, 1st Lt. Conor McDowell. Kathleen Isabel Bourque, the love of Conor's life, joined them. None of them had anticipated what they would be going through.

Conor, the McDowells' only child, was killed during a vehicle rollover accident in the Las Pulgas area of Camp Pendleton during routine Marine training on May 9. He was 24.

Just weeks before that emotional ceremony, Alexandrina Braica, her husband and five children attended a similar memorial at the same military base, this to honor Staff Sgt. Joshua Braica, a member of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion who also was killed in a rollover accident, April 13, at age 29.

Braica, of Sacramento, was married and had a 4 1/2-month-old son.

"To see the love they had for Josh and to see the respect and appreciation was very emotional," Alexandrina Braica said of the battalion. "They spoke very highly of him and what a great leader he was. One of his commanders said, 'He was already the man he was because of the way he was raised.' As parents, we were given some credit."

While the tributes helped the McDowells and Braicas process their grief, the families remain unclear about what caused the training fatalities. They expected their sons eventually would deploy and put their lives at risk, but they didn't expect either would die while training on base.

"We're all still in denial, 'Did this really happen? Is he really gone?' Braica said. "When I got the phone call, Josh was not on my mind. That's why we were at peace. He was always in training and I never felt that it would happen at Camp Pendleton."

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(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States looks set to break a promise not to hold military exercises with South Korea, putting talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons at risk, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The United States' pattern of "unilaterally reneging on its commitments" is leading Pyongyang to reconsider its own commitments to discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the ministry said in a pair of statements released through state news agency KCNA.

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(Courtesy of Roman Sabal)

A deported Marine Corps veteran who has been unable to come back to the U.S. for more than a decade was denied entry to the country Monday morning when he asked to be let in for a scheduled citizenship interview.

Roman Sabal, 58, originally from Belize, came to the San Ysidro Port of Entry around 7:30 on Monday morning with an attorney to ask for "parole" to attend his naturalization interview scheduled for a little before noon in downtown San Diego. Border officials have the authority to temporarily allow people into the country on parole for "humanitarian or significant public benefit" reasons.

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Jeff Schogol

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.

Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.

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