Marine General Bids Farewell to Centcom Family
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 22, 2013 The outgoing commander of U.S. Central Command bid farewell today to his team during a ceremony in Tampa, Fla., as he prepares to retire after more than 40 years of service.
Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis relinquished command of Centcom to Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III in a ceremony hosted by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the combatant command’s headquarters.
Mattis, famed for his call sign, “Chaos,” praised U.S. and foreign troops and their families for their efforts.
“I’ve had the good fortune to be part of this team, and your words are really directed at what this team has done,” he said, referring to praise from Hagel during the secretary’s remarks.
“I’d just tell you it has been an absolute delight – a real pleasure to serve alongside the U.S. and the foreign soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and civilians who work together here in Tampa and across the tumultuous region in the interest of peace,” Mattis said.
As Centcom commander, Mattis was responsible for a 20-country area, and he worked with 62 coalition partners in the fight against terrorism. Centcom has led the campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The general lauded his joint-service team for their commitment and sacrifice as they managed and fought in both wars.
“This command is composed of stalwarts -- standouts in the respective services, all ranks, all services, all nations, co-equal in their commitment,” he said. “They and their families here at home have seen repeated deployments to the combat zone, coming back time after time to our headquarters before they get ready to go again.”
Mattis noted his team has put in seven-day work weeks, and added that despite more than a decade of war, “none of the deployments or war’s grim daily realities have lessened their sense of purpose or the infectious, high spirits of the Centcom team.”
Among his many previous assignments, Mattis commanded an assault battalion during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and he led the 1st Marine Division during the initial attack and subsequent stability operations in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
And, as Hagel pointed out in his remarks, Mattis led Marines into battle during the fight for the city of Fallujah in Iraq.
“Mr. Secretary, chairman, I would happily storm hell in the company of these troops, who I haven’t the words sufficient to praise, so I will not try,” Mattis said. “They know how strongly I believe in them -- how strongly they have demonstrated to the world that free men and women can fight like a dickens.”
The cost has been severe, Mattis acknowledged, noting that the nation has lost many of its beloved sons and daughters. Many others have been wounded – many of them grievously – he said.
“Yet after more than 10 years of war, our ranks remain filled by top-quality volunteers -- volunteers who have looked beyond the hot political rhetoric and answered our country’s call.” He added that he is humbled by these ““true patriots who have signed a blank check, payable with their lives, to the American people.”
Mattis also welcomed Austin back to Centcom. The new Centcom commander, who most recently served as the Army’s vice chief of staff, commanded all U.S. forces in Iraq from September 2010 to December 2011.
“Lloyd, we’ve served side by side repeatedly,” Mattis said. “I can think of no one better prepared to command Centcom, and I pass to you the finest warfighting team on the Earth.”