In a story published this morning, The New York Times treads over a lot of well-worn ground while examining Gen. James Mattis’ past and considering how he’ll fit in as the new commander of U.S. Central Command.
Most of it will come as no surprise to Marine Corps watchers. Mattis is known for his “impolitic” remarks, the Times reports, and is “a warrior who chooses to lead from the front lines and speaks bluntly rather than concerning himself with political correctness.” Shocker, I know.
The story does contain one great anecdote, though. Nathaniel Fick, a former Marine captain whose profile was raised by the books Generation Kill and One Bullet Away (his own work), offers the following memory from his time in Afghanistan:
It was the first winter of the war in Afghanistan, when the wind stabbed like an ice pick and fingertips froze to triggers, but a young lieutenant’s blood simmered as he approached a Marine fighting hole and spotted three heads silhouetted in the moonlight. He had ordered only two Marines to stand watch while the rest of the platoon was ordered to rest before an expected Taliban attack at first light.
“I dropped down into the hole, and there were two junior Marines,” the lieutenant, Nathaniel C. Fick, recalled of that overnight operation outside Kandahar. “But the third was General Mattis. He has a star on his collar and could have been sleeping on a cot with a major waiting to make him coffee. But he’s out there in the cold in the middle of the night, doing the same thing I’m doing as a first lieutenant — checking on his men.”
And that, of course, is why his Marines love him.